Flock: First Nations stories then and now (ed by Ellen van Neerven, UQP)
Flock is a far-roaming collection of short fiction showcasing the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers. The 20 stories are by a mix of established luminaries and emerging talent, and all have been previously published elsewhere, between 1996–2021. As editor Ellen van Neerven reminds us, ‘The roots of these First Nations stories span generations, this book being part of a much bigger conversation.’ The names within are an electrifying lot that includes 2020 Miles Franklin–winner Tara June Winch, as well as Tony Birch, Melissa Lucashenko, Samuel Wagan Watson and newcomer Adam Thompson. Van Neerven, too, contributes a tale. It’s not surprising to find elegies for Country within the book, as well as anger and lamentations about colonial dispossession and the Stolen Generations, of ‘Sorry business, no justice and no reckoning for the innocent and the wretched’. But Flock is broad in scope and touches on all manner of life’s beauty and messiness. Ultimately, it’s the quality of the writing that impresses as much as the themes explored. Native red-tailed black cockatoos adorn the cover; they’re a totemic species for many First Nations Australians and are a perfect symbol of collective strength. As van Neerven posits, ‘We all have our own pair of beautiful wings, but we fly together in formation. Together we are stronger. We flock together.’
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer, and the books editor of the Big Issue.