Black Summer (ed by Michael Rowland, ABC Books)
This excellent anthology won’t be the final word on the 2019–20 Black Summer fires but it contains some of the very best words you can read on the subject. From southern Queensland, through NSW and eastern Victoria to Kangaroo Island in SA, 18 million hectares burned, 3000 homes were lost, a billion animals disappeared and 34 people lost their lives. If it hadn’t been for the ABC’s 24-hour essential emergency service radio and TV broadcasting, more would have perished. Black Summer showcases the finest writing on the this bushfire season from those best accredited to speak on the subject. Alongside an introduction by editor Michael Rowland, a foreword by Ita Buttrose and another from Andrew Constance, and a conclusion by Josh Szeps, Black Summer gathers 16 personal essays from ABC staff under the headings ‘Dread’, ‘Disaster’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Evacuation’, ‘Community and Resilience’ and ‘Facing the Future’. In these narratives we hear from those ABC reporters who risked their lives to broadcast, some alongside essential service personnel under the pyrocumulus of the megafire, others from smoky Sydney studios and packed community centres. These are their stories—and ours, their listeners, many of whom called in while facing down the firefront. Black Summer is a terrific book for all ABC listeners—and during that summer weren’t we all.
Michael Kitson is a bookseller for Collins Lydiard Street, Ballarat.