Nona & Me by Clare Atkins tells the beautifully written story of two Australian sisters—yapas—as they navigate community and politics in their remote corner of the Northern Territory. This is a story with purpose and meaning. It respects and embraces Aboriginal culture, and it offers valuable education and discussion on important issues that affect many of Australia’s Indigenous communities, including the politics of Arnhem Land.
Atkins is a talented storyteller. The Northern Territory of Nona & Me is richly detailed and full of life. Atkins paints a clear picture of rural Australia, describing familiar scenes of red dirt and sunny skies in new and refreshing ways. Nona & Me is written to be accessible and easy to read, but it maintains a strong sense of poetry in its prose, making it a work of lyricism and skill as well. Told through alternating (and intertwining) past and present narratives, this is a must-read for Australians.
Nona & Me follows main character Rosie, a year 10 student navigating friendships and first loves. Growing up in a remote region of the Northern Territory, Rosie has always felt connected to her community and her family, especially Nona, her best friend and yapa. Adopted by Nona’s family generations ago, Rosie and her parents have spent years learning about Yolngu culture and heritage. But Nona moved away when she and Rosie were nine, and things have changed since then. In Nona & Me, Rosie must make big decisions about life, culture, and family.
Nona & Me follows Rosie and Nona’s journeys as they navigate racism, family, community, culture, friendship, love, grief, and more. This is a story grounded in realism as it approaches big topics. I’d recommend this book to Australian readers of both YA and adult fiction.
Nona & Me is author Clare Atkins’s debut book, inspired by her own experiences living with an adopted Yolngu family in north-east Arnhem Land. It’s received a number of prestigious awards since its 2014 release. Clare is also the author of Between Us, and she’s a scriptwriter. You can stay up to date with Clare on her website, where there are lots of resources, including author interviews, education resources, and a video tour of locations featured in the book by two Yirrkala girls.
Have you read Nona & Me yet? If so, let me know what you thought! If not, what’s the best book you’ve read set in your country or state?
Title: Nona & Me
Author: Clare Atkins
Publication Date: 24 September, 2014
Publisher: Black Inc.
Rosie and Nona are sisters. Yapas.
They are also best friends. It doesn’t matter that Rosie is white and Nona is Aboriginal: their family connections tie them together for life.
Born just five days apart in a remote corner of the Northern Territory, the girls are inseparable, until Nona moves away at the age of nine. By the time she returns, they’re in Year 10 and things have changed. Rosie has lost interest in the community, preferring to hang out in the nearby mining town, where she goes to school with the glamorous Selena, and Selena’s gorgeous older brother Nick.
When a political announcement highlights divisions between the Aboriginal community and the mining town, Rosie is put in a difficult position: will she be forced to choose between her first love and her oldest friend?
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