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y separately published work icon They Cannot Take the Sky : Stories from Detention anthology   autobiography   interview  
Issue Details: First known date: 2017... 2017 They Cannot Take the Sky : Stories from Detention
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Revealing, moving and confronting accounts of the reality of life in mandatory detention by those who've experienced it.

'For more than two decades, Australia has locked up people who arrive here fleeing persecution - sometimes briefly, sometimes for years. In They Cannot Take the Sky those people tell their stories, in their own words. Speaking from inside immigration detention on Manus Island and Nauru, or from within the Australian community after their release, the narrators reveal not only their extraordinary journeys and their daily struggles but also their meditations on love, death, hope and injustice. Their candid testimonies are at times shocking and hilarious, surprising and devastating. They are witnesses from the edge of human experience.

'The first-person narratives in They Cannot Take the Sky range from epic life stories to heartbreaking vignettes. The narrators who have shared their stories have done so despite the culture of silence surrounding immigration detention, and the real risks faced by those who speak out. Once you have heard their voices, you will never forget them.' (Publication summary)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Crows Nest, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Allen and Unwin , 2017 .
      image of person or book cover 694505845784969907.jpg
      Cover image courtesy of publisher.
      Extent: 336p.
      Note/s:
      • Published March 2017
      ISBN: 9781760292805

Works about this Work

“Where We Are Is Too Hard” : Refugee Writing and the Australian Border as Literary Interface Dorothy Green Memorial Lecture Brigitta Olubas , 2019 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 19 no. 2 2019;

'Over the past decade Australia’s policies on border protection have achieved a certain dark notoriety, in their often-vexed (although perhaps not vexed enough) reception both at home and abroad. While there has been extensive, if not necessarily efficacious, public debate about the legal and political dimensions of these policies, together with some coverage of their human, most often medical, consequences for refugees and asylum-seekers, there has been less opportunity for us to attend more closely to the statements and self-expression of those who have been caught up most directly and intensely in those policies.

'Testimonial accounts by detainees from Australian offshore centres are now beginning to be published and made available to the wider Australian public, as in the 2017 publication, They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories From Detention, (ed Michael Green, André Dao et al) along with manifestos, such as that by Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist, currently held on Manus, who has been detained since 2013. In addition to these, in 2017, Island magazine published “Chanting of Crickets, Ceremonies of Cruelty: A Mythic Topography of Manus Prison,” an extract from Boochani’s forthcoming book, No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison, described by the publishers as “a lyric first-hand account” of his experiences.

'These works – testimonials, manifesto, poetic novel/memoir – don’t simply provide an account of the lives and experiences of the refugees and asylum seekers; they also delineate a relationship with the Australian public. They imagine or posit a dialogue with us. In this paper, I want to propose that we approach the dialogue being proposed by the asylum-seeker writings as a mode of literary engagement. To put this another way, I’m proposing that these works demand attentive reading from us, not only in our responsibilities as citizens but also and most particularly as literary readers or scholars. In thinking about literary reading as a point of necessary public interface, I am responding to line of thought proposed by Boochani in his resonant account of the task of writing the truth of refugee detainment in his essay in They Cannot Take the Sky, where he argues that literary language is fundamental to the expression of difficult truths: “I publish a lot of stories in the newspapers and in the media about Manus, but people, really, they cannot understand our condition, not in journalistic language. Where we are is too hard. I think only in literary language can people understand our life and our condition.”' (Publication abstract)

Offshore/Ashore : Australia’s Refugee Writing Clare Millar , 2019 single work column
— Appears in: Overland [Online] , July 2019;

'In Richard Flanagan’s foreword to No Friend But the Mountains, he states that Behrouz Boochani is ‘a great Australian writer’. The notion of what constitutes Australian literature has always been a bit nebulous. At first blush, it seems easy to define: writing by Australians. But then, who are these Australians? And by what definition could Boochani be considered an Australian writer? As Keyvan Allahyari and Paul Rae wrote in The Conversation, ‘If a non-citizen who has never set foot on mainland Australia can win [the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award], who counts as an Australian author?’' (Introduction)

When Asylum Seekers Are Turned into Non-people Sandra Symons , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: Sydney PEN Magazine , November 2017; (p. 22-23)

'In 2004, Australian award-winning novelist Tom Keneally and writer and academic Dr Rosie Scott (who died in May and was featured on the cover of the Sydney PEN magazine published during the 2017 Sydney Writers’ Festival) published A Country Too Far, a collection of fiction, poetry, memoir and essays by some of Australia’s acclaimed writers exploring the treatment of those seeking asylum in Australia. A Country Too Far won the 2004 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Community Award. Ten years later they produced Another Country, a Sydney PEN anthology that includes writings by refugees and former asylum seekers.' (Introduction)

The Greatest Crime Ruth Balint , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , July 2017;

'In a recent chapter in a book about empathy, the South African-born historian Stephen Aschheim, who now lives in Israel, remarked that ‘atrocities, perhaps especially our own, are more acceptable when performed in distant places and acted upon ‘uncivilised’ populations… The closer to home that they are perpetrated, the more problematic they become.’ For decades now, Australia’s detention regime has effectively moved the government’s handling of asylum seekers out of sight – beyond the gaze of journalists, activists, lawyers and the public. This has enabled the government to lie about the people detained, using variations of the ‘uncivilised’ trope, without much fear of censure by the people themselves. And in an even more cynical twist, it has allowed successive governments to represent themselves as both muscular and fair, in standing firm with a policy that ‘stopped the boats’. But they haven’t stopped the boats and they haven’t stopped the deaths, they have just moved them out of our watch.' (Introduction)

Language Woken Up : Maria Tumarkin on They Cannot Take the Sky Maria Tumarkin , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Monthly , May no. 133 2017; (p. 50-51)

'Australians haven’t had the present-day European experience of refugees on our streets. If families were napping outside our houses and walking single file along the highways, holding plastic bags containing all they own, thousands stuck in limbo at train stations, in squares - Melbourne’s Federation Square, a few centimetres between bodies and not one untaken bit of sandstone panel, summer, winter, they’re still there - if the living and the dead washed up at Trigg, on Clovelly, places our children go in bathers and arm floaties, how would it have been different? Would it have been different?' (Introduction)

[Review Essay] They Cannot Take the Sky PT , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Saturday Paper , 18 March 2017;

'How does a young doctor, driven out of Iraq by political violence that engulfs the very hospital he is working in, end up in the isolation unit of an Australian maximum security prison? He has committed no crime, under local or international law. Then one day in 2000, after 10 months in Australia’s immigration detention system – 10 months wasted, for himself and the country he will embrace – he is left on the side of a desert highway in Western Australia to wait for a bus.' (Introduction)

Who Owns the Future? : Techno-dreams and Progressive Cynicism André Dao , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Griffith Review , May no. 56 2017; (p. 68-77)
'The future is always arriving, in one form or another. There is no no future. It's an absurdly simple point, like saying that one plus one equals two. But despite its apparent simplicity, it bears remembering because its corollary has far-reaching consequences: that the future will come regardless of our capacity to imagine and articulate a vision for it. Which in turn leads to another obvious but easily missed point: that any failure of the imagination vis- -vis the future does not prevent the future arriving, but only leaves it susceptible to the visions of others. Or, to put it another way: the future belongs to those who dare to imagine it.' (Publication abstract)
'They Cannot Take The Sky : Stories from Detention' Edited by Michael Green Et Al. Madeline Gleeson , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , May no. 391 2017;
'Refugee law and policies are subject to vociferous debate the world over as governments and societies grapple with the challenges of almost unprecedented global displacement. Yet the most relevant voices – those of refugees and asylum seekers themselves – are usually missing from these debates. We speak about refugees, perhaps even for refugees. Rarely are they afforded the opportunity to speak for themselves. Locked away in isolated detention facilities, or on remote Pacific islands, lives and experiences are reduced to a string of pernicious acronyms. People become IMAs (illegal maritime arrivals) and UMAs (unauthorised maritime arrivals). Children separated from their families are UAMs (unaccompanied minors). Adult men travelling alone are SAMs (single adult males), regardless of whether they have wives and children waiting for them elsewhere.' (Introduction)
Language Woken Up : Maria Tumarkin on They Cannot Take the Sky Maria Tumarkin , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Monthly , May no. 133 2017; (p. 50-51)

'Australians haven’t had the present-day European experience of refugees on our streets. If families were napping outside our houses and walking single file along the highways, holding plastic bags containing all they own, thousands stuck in limbo at train stations, in squares - Melbourne’s Federation Square, a few centimetres between bodies and not one untaken bit of sandstone panel, summer, winter, they’re still there - if the living and the dead washed up at Trigg, on Clovelly, places our children go in bathers and arm floaties, how would it have been different? Would it have been different?' (Introduction)

The Greatest Crime Ruth Balint , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , July 2017;

'In a recent chapter in a book about empathy, the South African-born historian Stephen Aschheim, who now lives in Israel, remarked that ‘atrocities, perhaps especially our own, are more acceptable when performed in distant places and acted upon ‘uncivilised’ populations… The closer to home that they are perpetrated, the more problematic they become.’ For decades now, Australia’s detention regime has effectively moved the government’s handling of asylum seekers out of sight – beyond the gaze of journalists, activists, lawyers and the public. This has enabled the government to lie about the people detained, using variations of the ‘uncivilised’ trope, without much fear of censure by the people themselves. And in an even more cynical twist, it has allowed successive governments to represent themselves as both muscular and fair, in standing firm with a policy that ‘stopped the boats’. But they haven’t stopped the boats and they haven’t stopped the deaths, they have just moved them out of our watch.' (Introduction)

Last amended 10 Sep 2019 14:07:24
Subjects:
  • c
    Nauru,
    c
    South Pacific, Pacific Region,
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