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Fulbright scholar’s debut book explores reconciliation in Australian literature

adelle-sefton-rowston-book
Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston is launching her debut book Polities and Poetics: Race Relations and Reconciliation in Australian Literature.

A debut book by Fulbright scholar and lecturer in Literary Studies Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston, Polities and Poetics: Race Relations and Reconciliation in Australian Literature, will be launched at the Northern Territory Library and Archives in October.

The book explores relationships and representations of society and cultures in Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian creative writing from the 1990s to 2010, a time in literary history Dr Sefton-Rowston terms “reconciliatory writing”.

Reconciliation movements since the 1990s have sparked a new genre of creative writing, and Dr Sefton-Rowston wants to understand how authors are representing social relations in their imaginations.

“Indigenous literature from the 60s to 90s is viewed as ‘resistance writing’ as seen in Black Words White Page by Adam Shoemaker,” Dr Sefton-Rowston said.

“In the last decade, Alexis Wright termed recent literature ‘sovereign writing’. I want to explore the time in between of these periods that marks the sharing, exchange and imagination of reconciliation.”

Dr Sefton-Rowston received permission from renowned Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe to use words from his book Convincing Ground as an epigraph in the first chapter of her book.

“Bruce Pascoe talks about two fundamental truths that we are stuck with each other and the land, which really inspired my book,” she said.

“Words like these lead us to think about how representation of land and people can heal relations and bring us closer. It’s the power of reading and writing.”

Another inspiration is from her encounter with an Indigenous woman in Santa Teresa in Central Australia whom Dr Sefton-Rowston spent a whole night talking to during a school excursion when she was a secondary school teacher.

“She invited me to chat on her veranda, and we talked about love, life and politics. It showed me how dialogue between strangers can help us better understand race relations and society,” she said.

The book also looks at the critical challenges in reconciliation and what is impossible to reconcile, and how arts responds to the gaps in political campaigns.

“A central theme is that no space is left untouched by the way we reconcile with each other. Material movements show a change of heart and how our consciousness changes. Literature provides that space for this analysis,” she said.

She also analyses creative literature from international authors to explore ways they reimagine relations, migrant perspectives and how different cultures represent colonisation.

Her book received testimonials from Marie Munkara, author of Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea and Professor Lyn McCredden, Chair of Literature at Deakin University.

Having recently been awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to research prison arts programs in the United States, Dr Sefton-Rowston focuses on the power of stories for reconciliation and rehabilitation.

Dr Sefton-Rowston is launching her book alongside Professor Ruth Wallace, Dean of CDU’s College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts, at Northern Territory Library and Archives on 6 October.