Mazin' Grace

Mazin' Grace

Book - 2012
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Growing up on the Mission isn't easy for clever Grace Oldman. When her classmates tease her for not having a father, she doesn't know what to say. Papa Neddy says her dad is the Lord God in Heaven, but that doesn't help when the Mission kids call her a bastard. As Grace slowly pieces together clues that might lead to answers, she struggles to find a place in a community that rejects her for reasons she doesn't understand. --- back cover.
Publisher: St Lucia, Qld. :, University of Queensland Press,, 2012.
ISBN: 9780702249341
Characteristics: xiii, 248 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm.


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May 06, 2016

With the constant use of Kokatha language words I can see this taking me quite some time to read. Some of them I'm starting to memorise, so I don't have to check the glossary every time I come across a foreign word, but it's still quite disruptive of my reading process. The use of one of the many native languages of the Australian Aborigines is authentic and probably close to the way the author's mother spoke, especially when she was a child in the 50s, but I don't understand the author's choice of words to write in Kokatha. She chooses what I think are logical choices, for example a type of fish, or flower and other things that mean something to her people particularly. The choices I don't understand are words like know or eat, more prosaic words that don't have any special meaning to the Kokatha people. Also I would be a fan of a few less instances of Kokatha words to save time flicking back and forth. In fact, I've begun to guess at the word from the context of the sentence in an effort to save time and eliminate as much of the disruption in the flow of the story as possible.

I stopped reading Mazin Grace in late 2012/early 2013 (can't really remember now) due to disinterest and a looming library due date. I restarted it this afternoon (2015) during a particularly long and tedious wait at the doctor's. I want to see if, after an 24 month break, I can give this another go and actually finish it this time.

Grace keeps repeating the same information, and it's not particularly interesting information. So far this has mostly been about Grace getting in trouble and getting a pounding from one of her family members because of it, food that is being found and eaten, Grace getting in trouble from a white authority figure, and a half-hearted search for the answer to the question of who her father is, followed by Grace getting in trouble again (she's in trouble a lot). I was expecting a book more along the lines of Rabbit-Proof Fence, instead this doesn't seem to have much direction or reason for being except to showcase the Kokatha language. To be honest I'm a bit disappointed with this.

Finally, something interesting has happened. Grace has come down with osteomyelitis (an infection in the bone) in her leg and has to go to a city hospital for 11 months of antibiotic treatment, and when that doesn't work surgery, and rehab. She learns what it's like to be alone - have a bed to herself, have toys of her own that her younger siblings and cousins can't ruin, have peace and quiet for the first time in her life - to have people care for her unconditionally (without the temperamental ups and downs her family go through that lead to Grace being punched and smacked by the other kids, as well as the adults), and to be able to feel comfortable enough to concentrate on her schoolwork (no kids to tease her for her intelligence, to tell her that the only reason she's smarter than them is because she's a white man's bastard).

She realises what life could be like off the mission. So much so that when she finally gets home she no longer feels like she fits in with her family - her speech has become more modulated, she's advanced way beyond her classmates, she no longer sees her toys as everyone's toys (books, stuffed animals, puzzles, etc.) they're her toys that aren't to be destroyed by the little kids pulling them to pieces like they usually do. In short, Grace has changed and she no longer knows whether she’d rather live with a nice city family where she might be able to have her own room with clean sheets and toys that belonged just to her, or stay with the family she's always known.

Okay, the first half of this was pretty slow and was almost enough to stop me finishing it, but I stuck it out and it got better towards the end. The most interesting part was reading what the author said about her mother. I think I would’ve enjoyed a straight memoir of her mother's life more than I did this fictionalised version.

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