Author: Tony Birch
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: March 15, 2022
Book Description: Australia’s leading indigenous storyteller makes his American debut with this immersive and deeply resonant novel, set in the 1960s, that explores the lengths we’ll go to save the people we love—an unforgettable story of one native Australian family and the racist government that threatens to separate them.
Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small Australian country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane—secrets that could explain why Odette’s daughter, Lila, left her one-year-old daughter, Sissy, and never came back, or why Sissy has white skin when her family is Aboriginal.
For thirteen years, Odette has quietly raised her granddaughter without drawing notice from welfare authorities who remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. But the arrival of a new policeman with cruel eyes and a rigid by-the-book attitude throws the Brown women’s lives off-kilter. It will take all of Odette’s courage and cunning to save Sissy from the authorities, and maybe even lead her to find her daughter.
Bolstered by love, smarts, and the strength of their ancestors, Odette and Sissy are an indomitable force, handling threats to their family and their own identities with grace and ingenuity, while never losing hope for themselves and their future.
In The White Girl, Miles Franklin Award-nominated author Tony Birch illuminates Australia’s devastating post-colonial past—notably the government’s racist policy of separating Indigenous children from their families, known today as the Stolen Generations—and introduces a tight-knit group of charming, inspiring characters who remind us of our shared humanity, and that kindness, hope, and love have no limits.
Rating: 4 Stars
Review: Set in the 1960’s in a small fictional Australian town. Odette Brown is an aborigine woman taking care of her 13 year old granddaughter Sissy. Odette, knows under the law her county and status, Sissy could be taken at any given time. When a new cop comes into town, she realizes she is in even more danger of losing Sissy.
Odette is also in pain and after major reluctance she goes to the doctor and finds out she has a tumor, probably benign, but it needs to be removed. However, before she goes into surgery, she needs to ensure Sissy has proper care.
This sets up Odette and Sissy to leave their town against the will of the newest cop, but with permission of the outgoing cop before he retires. They go in search to find Sissy’s mother, but so much more occurs.
This was a lovely, gentle story that takes on the topic of racism with such care. Birch brought to light a time in history in a country that I had not known about. Odette is like any loving family member and just wanted to do what is best for Sissy, and that was for them to stay together.
Thank you NetGalley and HarperVia for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.