Review of ‘Young Dark Emu’
Bruce Pascoe has penned a book, and now a younger readers edition of that book, that is, and will continue to be, the subject of many wonderful conversations and changes in the way we view Australian Agricultural practice and Indigenous history.
Title: ‘Young Dark Emu: A Truer History’
Author: Bruce Pascoe
Publisher: Magabala Books
Age Range: middle primary +, but actually this book is ageless.
Themes: Indigenous, Australian history, farming, agriculture, land management, pastoral industry.
Click on title links or cover images to purchase.
In the original ‘Dark Emu: Black Seeds, Agriculture or Accident?’, Bruce Pascoe asks readers to reconsider the hunter-gatherer label given to pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. It details the traditional conservation and land management practices used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years and in typical Pascoe style, the writing is top notch. I have listened to the entire book on audio, narrated by Pascoe, and have dipped in and out of the print version. Pascoe has compiled the accounts of early European explorers, colonists and farmers and his research and first hand accounts are enlightening. I admit that I found the print book dense, perhaps as I tend to not read non-fiction cover to cover, but reading it, I knew I was reading something that would start a whole new conversation about pre-colonial agricultural practices and perhaps future agricultural practices.
‘Dark Emu’ was shortlisted for the History Book Award in the 2014 Queensland Literary Awards, shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing, the winner of the Book of the Year in the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the winner of the Indigenous Writer’s Prize in the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. It is a remarkable book and I am overjoyed that the younger readers version is now available; ‘Young Dark Emu: A Truer History’ is the younger reader version of the adult text, and is set to change the way we view, talk about and teach history.
I have always found Pascoe’s writing ‘gentle’ – I can think of no other way to describe the feel of his writing. Having listened to him on audio and also met him, his gentle nature just seems to be a part of the way in which he constructs either a beautiful and heartwarming story as in ‘Mrs Whitlam’ (for middle – upper primary readers) or in a non-fiction text, as in ‘Dark Emu’. In ‘Young Dark Emu’ this gentle and considered style is used to great effect as he presents us with ‘a different truth’ and ‘a different way of seeing’.
Bruce Pascoe is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man born in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. He is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative of southern Victoria and has been the director of the Australian Studies Project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission. Bruce has had a varied career as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, barman, fencing contractor, lecturer, Aboriginal language researcher, archaeological site worker and editor.
Versions, formats and Teacher Notes: Click to purchase
And to hear more of my thoughts about this book (and a few others!) watch my recent ‘Five on Friday’ Facebook live below.