Kick the Tin-Doris Kartinyeri
nationality: Australian, Aboriginal
Non Fiction, Memoir
"When Doris Kartinyeri was a month old, her mother died. The family gathered to mourn their loss and welcome the new baby home. But Doris never returned to her family – she was stolen from the hospital and placed in Colebrook Home, where she stayed for the next fourteen years. The legacy of being a member of the Stolen Generations continued for Doris as she was placed in white homes as a virtual slave, struggled through relationships and suffered with bi-polar depression."
The story itself is not unfamiliar to anyone who has read on or experienced institutionalized childhoods and Christian homes. It's all about who is in the administration and Doris was fortunate that the sisters who were first in charge were apparently warm and caring. But when the administration changes to a strict Christian one that promotes shame and staff turn over, the sadly typical threads of exploitation and abuse appear. By not promoting education and instead placing people into menial positions, institutions pa e the way for potential life long exploitation-economically,sexually,and spiritually or all of the above. To make it all worse for the Aboriginals in Australia, all of this was unnecessary. These children were not from abusive homes, Doris would've been part of an extended familial community a network, I may add, that apparently contributes to better life long contentment.
Doris drops in sly injustices that you need to pick up on like the bank accounts the kids deposited money into that they never saw again. Instead, she is focused upon the shame, the bewildering changes of situation, and sexual abuse. Lacking a sense of security she understandably suffered a sense of inferiority which she contrasts with her "brave strong little woman" sister who openly breastfed (in the 50s no less).
There is anger in Doris's recounting. This a book that is important not because of its language and prose (simplistic) or its theoretical bases but rather for its sincerity. This is Doris's reflection upon her life just as she'd tell it, I imagine, on a porch on a point whose name I can neither spell or pronounce to a group of children during that period after supper, before sleep.
As Doris reaches adulthood, this becomes a memoir about mental illness. Despite the warm descriptions of the Aboriginal community and the support of her children, Doris's mental illness and the up and downs that accompany it undermined her sense of stability as an adult. It was really sad. This community that could easily nurture children was fragmented to cause rifts, alcohol abuse, and of course the mental illness of adults who 'returned'. This fragmentation and unsuitability is the reason the authorities claimed they took children in the first place. It really becomes obvious that the white Christian authorities were doing no less than propagating societal instability as well as individual instability.
I won Spiniflex Press's giveaway for GWC reviewers and I chose this book from their choices primarily because Aboriginal authors are severely underrepresented at my local library. I had seen the length of Map of Love, and decided that it would be an alternate book for my list and I'd read Kick the Tin instead. Only, I had to read Atlas of Love because it was reserved. At about this time, I heard about April being Australian Literature Month and so Kick the Tin got put right back on the to-read next list so that I could get it in for the challenge.