Book Review: Born Into This
Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman
A stark, moving window into Aboriginal life in Australia
The young president of a school club learns about her classmates’ heritage and their true colors; a man and his uncle rough it on their ancestral island; a young woman takes back stolen Aboriginal land. These and other scenarios permeate the pages of Born Into This by Adam Thompson.
Immersive, honest, and at times cutthroat, this short story collection peers into the lives of ordinary people across Tasmania—students, activists, desk workers, prisoners, and beyond—looking broadly into how people learn to survive in the circumstances they are born into.
Throughout the book, characters face generational poverty, racism, domestic violence, loss of heritage, and the gathering threat of climate change. Thompson channels anger and revenge, discomfort and wanting and loss into a collection of stories that will chill, quiet, and entrance its readers.
Born Into This offers a glimpse into the complications and tensions of life in-between two worlds. Thompson’s deft writing gives each story its own small world that feels achingly real, bringing to the foreground the singular culture and the unique challenges of Aboriginal Tasmanians.
This book is an exploration of the many ways there are to be Aboriginal, holding up a mirror to how racism can influence internal and external relationships and decisions. Some characters hold their identity close while others try to blend in. Some wave their resistance at the front lines, and others cultivate it quietly in the corner of a government lot. Some are on the outside wishing for community; some want to escape. All these perspectives are valid and understandable (even if some of the choices that characters make are not always admirable). Thompson presents a host of people who are sometimes flawed and sometimes unlikeable, yet deeply human. Hardened by the harsh realities of life, the characters of this collection make up a tough and memorable cast.
Yet even as it captivatingly animates its characters, Born Into This presents a reckoning for white readers. It stares into the face of stolen land and vanishing wisdom and artifacts, and refuses to blink. It mourns the retreating numbers of native species and the loss of traditional livelihoods, as well as preventable early deaths of young people at the margins.
Thompson leaves readers wondering what to say in the face of suffering and resilience, of fading ties to the land and the people who once lived there. Frank and darkly perceptive, yet somehow still tender, Born Into This is built out of short stories that strike, that spark, that ignite into flame.
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Genre: Short Story Collection / Indigenous & Aboriginal
Print Length: 142 pages
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