The White Girl
by Tony Birch
Publication Date March 15, 2022
Published by HarperCollins
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Genres: Fiction / Family Life / General, Fiction / Literary
A searing new novel from leading Indigenous storyteller Tony Birch that explores the lengths we will go to in order to save the people we love.Odette Brown has lived her whole life on the fringes of a small country town. After her daughter disappeared and left her with her granddaughter Sissy to raise on her own, Odette has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. When a new policeman arrives in town, determined to enforce the law, Odette must risk everything to save Sissy and protect everything she loves. In The White Girl, Miles-Franklin-shortlisted author Tony Birch shines a spotlight on the 1960s and the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families.
The White Girl by Tony Birch is a beautiful story about one strong woman’s desire to protect her granddaughter and make a better life for her.
This is a look into the oppressive practice of the Australian government in removing Aboriginal children from their families in order to “protect” them back in the 1960s. In this story, we follow one woman in her efforts to keep her thirteen-year-old granddaughter from the clutches of the Government.
Odette Brown lives with her granddaughter, Sissy in a small country town. Set in the early 1960s, Odette knows that Sissy, with her fair skin, may be targeted by the welfare authorities for removal to a “better” home. So far, she’s managed to evade the authorities, but when a new lawman moves into town, she knows she has to do something to keep Sissy safe.
This short novel is written in a very straightforward way and was easy to read, but also emotional too. I enjoyed the simplistic writing style and was instantly immersed in the story. After reading this story, I still don’t know much about Odetter or Sissy, but I do know a lot about the practices of the Government during this time period and how affected the lives of Odette and Sissy, and I believe this is the point the author was trying to make.
Although an emotional story, I felt like the author was able to highlight the horrors of the Federal Aboriginal Protection Act and the ramifications this act had on the Aboriginal people, without being too dramatic. He does this by writing about a strong, inspirational woman who defies the welfare officials and tells her story in a very matter-of-fact way.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves literary fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The White Girl by Tony Birch was originally published in Australia by Queensland Press on June 4 2019. Here is the original Australian cover:
Which Cover Do You Prefer?
Over the last couple of years, I have tried to read more books by and about indigenous people. This is another part of history that I was not aware of. That cover is so desolate feeling. Wonderful review, Wendy. I am hoping to find this one a the library.
I’ve never heard of the book. It definitely sounds devastating and emotional!
I will have to check this book out; it sounds like an intriguing read.
Thank you, Pam. I hope you enjoy it if you do get to it.
While this isn’t my type of read, I do think it sounds like a good story! Hmm, don’t know which cover I like best! The top one catches my eye the most though. Also, love your header! Great review, thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Lisa! I think the US cover is more eye catching too.
I actually like both covers but I think the American one just calls to me more.
Thank you, Carrie, I prefer the US cover too.
I think I prefer the Australian cover. It’s more intriguing to me. This sounds like an incredibly emotional story. Excellent review!
Thank you, Tessa. It was emotional, but the style of writing made it easy to read.
Australian author … done! There’s seriously something in the water in Australia. Everything written by Australian authors are so awesome. 😀
I just loved his writing style, it was so easy to read, and yet powerful too.
Excellent review Wendy! Sounds like a powerful story.💞💞
Thank you, Kaceey!
I read about this practice in another book, it was shocking. I can’t even imagine…
It’s just so horrible and sad.
I think I prefer the second cover. I hadn’t hear of that policy, but it sounds horrible! 🙁 I imagine this would be emotional to read.
You’re right, it’s an emotional book. But, the author’s easy writing, made it more hopeful.
In the U.S. Native Americans children were put in boarding schools to rid them of their language and culture. I learned from a Canadian blogger that Canada had their own version of placing children in “better” families. Now this! I had absolutely no knowledge of Australia’s program. Obviously we can’t know about all the atrocities that have happened, but this is an important one to know about and learn from. Great review, Wendy. Thanks for sharing this book.
Thank you, Linda. It always surprises me how horrible governments can be.
The Canadian government also forced the children to residential schools. The program you’re referring to is called the Sixties Scoop, as that is the era when they would send children to “foster” homes.
I always find that Australian setting interesting…especially in historical fiction reads.
Yes, it was so interesting, and I don’t know much about Australia, so it just fascinated me.
Sounds like a wonderful read about an awful practice. Still can’t believe our governments were doing things like even not that long ago…
I know! It really wasn’t long ago at all.
I prefer the cover you posted, it really draws the attention!
Thank you, Cindy. I agree!
I’d love to add this book to my list. I enjoy stories that are straightforward and immersive. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful review and recommendation Wendy!
Thank you! Straightforward and immersive are perfect words for this book.
This sounds amazing.
Canada has a similar history of removing indigenous children from their families. For a few generations, they were sent to horrible boarding schools where many died from malnutrition and disease. Between about the 1960s and 1980s, most of them were adopted out to white families who knew nothing of their culture and were given no resources to preserve their new children’s culture, language, customs, religion, etc.
These are such sad chapters of our shared past as humans. Wow, that was a tangent!
Anyway, I’m checking now to see if my local library has this book. Thank you for blogging about it. Your review was quite helpful.
Thank you, Lydia. It’s such a horrible history we have sometimes.
This does sound different, great review 💕
Thank you, Jenny!
I like both covers with this one. I’ve read about this a lot, and still continue to read about it. More people should. I hadn’t heard of this book so I just bought it. Thank you for sharing this!
Thank you, Rae. I agree, more people should know about this.
I’ll bet this was a very emotional read at times. I can’t even begin to imagine experiencing something like that, Wendy. Awesome review – and I prefer the first cover because of the colors.
Thank you, Teri. I like the first cover best too!