Homecoming: Powerful Voices From The Past

Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki is a poetic multi-generational memoir on the women of her family. This story made me laugh, cry, and confront an unconscious bias, all while falling in love with the Indigenous men and women held within the pages.  

Shiosaki is a First Nations storyteller. She has taken transcripts, letters, and articles to tell the story of her ancestors, primarily her female ones. Each word has been carefully selected from historical accounts and turned into poetry.

The impact of these voices from the past is staggering. It is not just one voice revealing the struggles of Indigenous Australians, but many, speaking from different times in Australia’s history. As Siosaki says: 

First Nations storytelling recognises the human agencies of Aboriginal women to resist, survive and renew. We find freedom in storytelling, to restore humanity to our intergenerational story cycles, and carve bidis (tracks) between ancient and new worlds.  

Homecoming

And restore humanity to these voices is just what Shiosaki achieves. This story does not feel like history, this feels like reality and one that anyone from any background can understand. Sometimes history tends to focus on the trauma inflicted on Indigenous Australians (which is important for healing), but it forgets the powerful things Aboriginal Australians have done to fight for their rights and freedoms. This can be its own pervasive type of racism, treating the minority as if they are now unable to save themselves.  

Home Coming is a powerful narrative made up of many powerful indigenous voices. From Elfie’s great-grandmother who was a confident, cosmopolitan woman, and her Great Aunt who fought for equality. Shiosaki’s strength is being able to turn these intertwined voices into poetry.  

You can feel the frustration of the father trying to have his children returned to him and hear the cheeky personality of Olive Shiosaki when she muses that she is ageless.  

I didn’t know when I was born, so in a way, I am not eighty-four, see? 

Homecoming

It is confronting to see the transcribed case involving Mary Alice Harris and to hear the confusion of the prosecutor asking what an Aboriginal man would do with a white man’s pay.  

1397. What could they do with it? The same as white people.  

Homecoming

The unique storytelling lens serves to remind us that these stories are not just trauma and loss but also complicated people. I found the part that focused on Miss Venus in her swimsuit a reminder that these women had varied and full lives, that they were more than a child from the stolen generation.  

They used to call her Miss Venus, reckoned she was so beautiful, in a bathing suit.  

Homecoming

There is trauma in this story that Shiosaki weaves. Her family is part of the stolen generation, there were many injustices and inequality. her beautiful pros paint the heart-breaking reality in a way that makes me weep at the loss of a loved child. I cried, at the loss, but also from the reminder that this child was cherished and protected before being forcibly removed. Another memory makes me feel queasy when her great-grandma is made to stand on a table while being praised for being a clean Aboriginal girl. 

Summary

Homecoming is power, and it is pain. It is truth, and it is poetry. It will leave you feeling raw and uplifted because these women didn’t just survive through this trauma, they were renewed, and they resisted.

— Bliss
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Hi, I'm Bliss, the reader and writer behind Books For Bliss. Discover book reviews, lists for your next great read, or a story to make you feel great. It's all right at your finger tips; happiness on a page. Read More

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