This Exhibition provides a brief guide to Asian-Australian life writing about childhood. Life writing includes fields such as autobiographies, biographies, diaries, and blogs. While life writing frequently examines childhood experiences, it is rarely written specifically for children or young adults. Despite this, the works in this Exhibition may be of great interest to young-adult readers and their teachers, as well as to life-writing scholars and general readers. These works represent diverse childhood and adolescent experiences, ranging from leaving Vietnam as an unaccompanied child refugee, to growing up Chinese-Australian and gay in the Australian suburbs.
This anthology collects together scores of essays about Asian-Australian childhood and adolescence. Some of the stories focus on food, others on language, some on bullying and belonging. The stories cover a wide range of experiences, and tend to focus on the period from the 1970s onwards.
Chinatown Comics artist Matt Huynh was commissioned to create short comics based on real stories from locals and visitors in Sydney's Chinatown. For example, Ann Zhu's story 'Recite with Feeling' describes her pride in her winning performance at a kind of Chinese eisteddfod.
On his website, Matt Huynh describes CAB as 'a graphic novel collection of short autobiographical comics drawn from the experiences of a dozen ordinary residents and visitors to the suburban South-Western Sydney communities of Cabramatta' (matthuynh.com). Some of the narrators relate childhood stories.
Wu was a teenager when she wrote this picture book, which is illustrated by her father and mother, Di Wu and Kathy Huang.
Gabrielle Wang tells a childhood story of trying to glimpse a witch who supposedly lives in the mansion down the road. She undertakes this adventure with her friend, Wendy. Wang also writes about being part of 'the only Chinese family for miles around' and feeling different.
'The book includes extracts from diaries, letters, and other testimony of former UNHCR officers located in Canada, Indonesia, the US and Australia. Among them is 84-year-old Talbot Bashall, who served as Controller of the Refugee Control Centre in Hong Kong. After so many years, these privileged perspectives on the exodus can finally be shared.
'Carina Hoang has also assembled a powerful collection of photographic images, most of which are published for the first time. They are vital to the book's first objective, which is to preserve the historical record for the education of future generations of the global boat-people diaspora.(...more)
Among these stories of the Vietnamese exodus are first-person accounts from former child asylum seekers. Thuy Trang Lai writes in 'To See My Mother Again' of her journey as an 11-year-old across the sea, her time as a refugee in Malaysia, and her arrival in Australia. Dai Le writes in 'The Girls, Hide the Girls' of her journey as a seven-year-old with her mother and sister. They spent time in three refugee camps before finally arriving in Australia.
Christine Wu Ramsay writes about her childhood growing up as part of a Chinese family in Penang, Malaysia, during and after WWII in a wealthy family. The book contains dozens of photographs that provide a rich visual impression of the family's living conditions, fashions, school life, and so on. Right at the end of the book, Ramsay very briefly describes arriving in Adelaide in 1958 to complete a matriculation year at an Adelaide high school. She would never return to live in Malaysia.
Voyage of Hope describes the experiences of Vietnamese women who arrived in Australia as refugees after the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. The chapter 'Refugee Children' tells the stories of two women who arrived in Australia alone as unaccompanied child refugees. Dzung left Vietnam as a ten-year-old. Her boat was intercepted by a German ship, and she eventually was taken to Palawan refugee camp in the Philippines, where she lived with hundreds of other children for over two years, before finally being sponsored to live in Australia. Thi left Vietnam at the age of twelve. Her first attempt to leave Vietnam resulted in her being apprehended by police, strip-searched, interrogated, and placed in solitary confinement. This experience strengthened her desire to leave Vietnam. She was successful on her second attempt, and ended up in Songkhla refugee camp, in Thailand. Traumatized, Thi attempted suicide in the camp. She eventually was accepted into Australia, arriving at the age of fourteen.
This anthology 'was begun by a group of asylum seekers sharing stories around the table at the Refugee Claimants Support Centre in Windsor, Brisbane. The asylum seekers were from countries like the Congo, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan. [...] The idea behind the book was to help people have a voice. And what powerful voices have emerged! There were no preconceptions about what might be written; people were invited to share anything they wanted, and there was no pressure to share what did not feel comfortable or safe.(...more)
Alone, Together: Writing from Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Australia contains short memoirs and poems from adult and child asylum seekers. It incudes stories about being a child in Afghanistan and Vietnam, among other places.
'Vietnamese war-baby Dominic Hong Duc Golding was airlifted out of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War and adopted into an Australian family in Mount Gambier. In 1999, he returned to Vietnam for his own tour of duty.
'A co-production by La Mama and Melbourne Workers Theatre, Shrimp is a tour de force theatrical autobiography, taking us to the streets of war-torn Saigon, the wet pastures of Mount Gambier and the varied landscapes of modern Vietnam where Dom returns to find his family.
'Reflecting upon his rural upbringing and the chaos of Saigon, the partially-hearing impaired (due to mortar fire) Dom tries to reconcile his battle over footy, fish sauce and finding himself.(...more)
Shrimp is an autobiographical play by Dominic Hong Duc Golding. Golding was a Vietnamese war baby who was adopted by Australian parents in Mount Gambier. He later returned to Vietnam.
The Home Song Stories is a film based on Tony Ayres's personal experiences growing up Chinese in Australia in the 1970s. Margaret Pomeranz of At The Movies describes the film as a 'heart-wrenching tale of passion, displacement, and mental illness [that] has an extraordinary honesty about it, an often confronting honesty' (abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1996172.htm).