'Purple Threads, by Jeanine Leane, embodies country. Images of the land are physically and emotionally evoked in the individual stories that make up this short story cycle, running through the stories as delicately as strands of purple wisteria and as powerfully as the Murrumbidgee River flows and then surges through the countryside where they are set. In this article I aim to demonstrate how two features of the short story cycle - the independence and interrelatedness of the stories in the cycle, and the longer story within the cycle - help to convey the multifarious connections people can have to their country, family and the places they call home.
Leane draws on her own experiences to articulate formative incidents in a young girl’s life that explore what it meant to be an Aboriginal girl growing up in central NSW in the 1960s and ’70s. The development of Sunny’s cultural and ethnic identity is inseparable from her relationship with country, nurtured by her Nan and Aunties’ love and respect for the land, and challenged by a Dorothy-esque journey that carries her far away to a foreign country in search of family, and back again to the place she feels most loved and secure.
'This article thus explores the importance of country in Sunny’s growing awareness of her identity, and forms part of a broader project on the representations of women’s lives in the short story cycle.' (Publication abstract)
Of all the flowers in Nan’s garden I loved the bearded irises best of all . . . Nan used to call them flag lilies because of their billowy, showy heads that fluttered in the late spring winds. On wet November days, though, they reminded me of sad old ladies with a secret to tell. (Leane 50)