other times and places

November 4th, 2010 | Category: books

Me. Fiction. Love. How? Let me count the ways…okay – I’m clearly not going to do that. Too many. But ONE of the ways is the ‘taking me to time zones and places I can’t otherwise visit’. So, four YA books I’ve read recently – Robyn Bavati, ‘Dancing in the Dark’, Julia Lawrence, ‘The Push’, Kirsty Murray, ‘India Dark’ and Gabrielle Wang, ‘Little Paradise’ have taken me, very engagingly, very persuasively, to interesting places. But I’m sad to hear that Robyn has been getting a hard time about ‘Dancing in the Dark’ from some members of the orthodox Jewish community in Melbourne who see the book as overly critical and so have banned it from some school libraries. I hate the idea of banning books. Hate it. (Although – upside – it will guarantee that the kids from those schools will definitely read it.) The book in question is wonderfully even-handed in its depiction of religious practices and beliefs. There is one aspect of this particular orthodox Jewish community’s culture that gave me the horrors though, and it is the idea that girls’ education is less important than boys’ education. The girls in protagonist Ditty’s family are only expected to complete school to year 11. Boo! And hooray to Robyn for shining a light on unacceptable inequities such as this. ‘Dancing in the Dark’ is not an ‘anti-‘ anything book, but it is a book that endorses the right of young people to be informed, and to make their own choices. And that is a fantastic message in anyone’s book.

13 responses to “other times and places”

  1. Megan says:

    Please tell me all about INDIA DARK! Did you like it?

    • fiona says:

      You have to read it! It is a good example of not letting story get swamped by research, by which I mean that there was obviously a hell of a lot of research that went into this book, but it is the characters and the narrative that shine through.

  2. Megan says:

    And I fully support Robyn.
    But I agree with you – it means everyone will read it!

  3. DoctorDi says:

    Oh, I can’t BEAR the banning of books. Cannot abide it in principle nor deed. A stunted, ineffectual response to dissent/criticism/alternative theory/challenging material, and besides which, it doesn’t work! Nothing drives appetite more than prohibition.

  4. Nomes says:

    Four Aussie books – and I haven’t read any yet 🙁

    (although I have Gabrielle’s book – have loaned it to my sister-in-law)

    I had heard there was some controversy with Robyn’s book – that must be so distressing as an author – it also must mean she picked an important issue/subject for teens to connect with.

    • fiona says:

      Thanks for visiting, Nomes. I was talking to a lovely bookseller the other day, and we were comforting each other about what we haven’t read: you can’t read everything! But having said this, these are all terrific reads. Robyn’s treatment of her subject is so fair, and so even handed, that it is hard to imagine anyone telling young readers to stay away. Banning books only makes them more desirable in any case, and, to me, it’s a poor reflection on any religion that it won’t allow for discussion or scrutiny.

  5. Robyn Bavati says:

    Thanks so much for your support. Actually, the fact that my fictional school only goes up to Year 11 was one of the ‘inaccuracies’ of which I was accused, since the school on which my fictional one is loosely based does in fact have a Year 12. However, this is fairly recent. Originally, it only went up to Year 10, and then to Year 11. And even now, though it does have a Year 12, they don’t offer VCE. I don’t think the boys’ school does either. Still, I haven’t written a treatise on the haredi community of Melbourne. Rather, I’ve written a work of fiction that is authentic in its portrayal of a certain kind of ultra-orthodox community that does exist here.

    On another note, I too have read and enjoyed both Little Paradise and The Push. India Dark is on my list of ‘Yet to be read’.

    • fiona says:

      The point remains, opportunity is limited by the structure of the school curriculum. And it is good to remember that it is a work of fiction, with all the freedom that should imply!

  6. Sabrina says:

    Hi Fiona,
    I just finished reading your wonderful novel 6 Impossible Things. I loved this book so much and I especially love the way it ended! Thanks so much for a good read!

  7. Alison says:

    Hi Fiona,
    Fantastic review in The Age this morning! Congrats.

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