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Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing
An Australian Children's Literature Project
(Status : Public)
Coordinated by AACLAP & CLDR Editors
  • Representations of Multiculturalism in Asian-Australian Literature for Young Adults

    This Exhibition is centred on a number of critical works on the representation of multiculturalism and multicultural subjectivities in Australian YA novels. The paper which initiated interest in the topic, "Messages from Inside: Multiculturalism in Contemporary Children's Literature" by Sharyn Pearce, is framed around two works by John Stephens (see separate resources). In addition to the articles by Pearce and Stephens this Exhibition brings together a number of other works on multiculturalism and children's literature such as those by Dudek and Ommundsen.

    The Exhibition also includes a wide range of texts from the AACLAP collection through which interested teachers, scholars, and/or researchers may further test Pearce's hypothesis and perhaps examine the possibility that since the publication of Pearce's paper the literature has entered a fourth stage (See for instance Xie's chapter).

    A link is provided to the AustLit work record of each resource. Here abstracts and bibliographical details can be found as well as further information through the Works About function, located towards the bottom of the work record. The list of YA novels from the AACLAP collection is by no means exhaustive.

  • Critical Works

  • Messages from Inside? Multiculturalism in Contemporary Children's Literature / Sharyn Pearce

    In this article Pearce contends that multiculturalism has been a part of Australia's official discourse for almost thirty years (at time of writing). She claims that the progress of multiculturalism can be traced through books for children and young adults. To support this argument Pearce refers to an article and a chapter by John Stephens on multiculturalism to frame her paper. Initially, Pearce outlines the two main stages of multiculturalism in children's texts identified by Stephens. The first stage contains texts written by authors from the dominant Anglo-Celtic majority and feature focalisers and narrators from that same group. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    The second stage sees a shift to texts which include characters and narrators from ethnic minority groups, thereby providing an 'insider perspective'. Such texts, however, still are usually mediated through Anglo-Celtic authors. Pearce then proposes a third stage in which texts use 'authentic' voices created by authors from minority backgrounds. Rather than focus on aspects of 'difference' the characters' cultural heritage is incidental, rather than pivotal, to developing subjectivities. The third stage includes texts in which, according to Pearce, ethnicity is not the marker of cultural difference, but an accepted part of Australian life.

  • Dogboys and Lost Things, or, Anchoring a Floating Signifier / Debra Dudek

    'In her 2004 book on multiculturalism, Haunted Nations: The Colonial Dimensions of Multiculturalisms, Sneja Gunew persistently refers to the term multiculturalism as a floating signifier. (1) While this notion of a floating signifier is helpful because it acknowledges different ways in which multiculturalism functions in specific contexts, it may be unhelpful when it floats so much as to lose any signification. While I identify myself as a postmodernist and, therefore, regularly resist universalist terminology, I find myself in a peculiar position of wanting to put limits on the term multiculturalism. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • In the Wake of the Tampa : Multiculturalism, Cultural Citizenship and Australian Refugee Narratives / Wenche Ommundsen

    Through the concept of cultural citizenship, Ommundsen comments on recent literary portrayals of asylum seeking and refugee experiences and how they might speak to contemporary views on multiculturalism in Australia. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Flights of Fantasy? or Space-Time Compression in Asian-Australian Picture Books / Trish Lunt

    Lunt looks at how 'diasporic experiences are negotiated across time and space' (65) in the picture books A Year of Pink Pieces and Old Magic. The analysis looks specifically at 'the ways in which hybridsed space operates as a function of power and subjectivity central to the project of mediating narratives about Asian-Australian diasporic cultures' (65). As a method for interpreting the 'negotiations of space, place and identity in the global passage of peoples and cultures' (69), Lunt takes into consideration the positionings, flows and folds of personal connections made in both texts by focusing on the images of kites and streamers as 'fluid hyphens' that 'make connections between worlds conceived otherwise as separate and distinct' (69). (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Voices of the Other : Children's Literature and the Postcolonial Context /

    The chapter in this book which is of particular interest to the Exhibition is Chapter 1, Rethinking the Identity of Cultural Otherness: The discourse of Difference as an Unfinished Project by Shaobo Xie. Xie brings a non-Western perspective to the subjects of 'otherness' and the role of a postcolonial critique which, she argues, does not signify the demise of the colonial past but rather points to a colonial past that remains be interrogated and critiqued (2). This interrogation is an ongoing process. The audience to whom this chapter is addressed is largely non-Western but Western readers and researchers would do well to attend to the critical points of the discussion.

    Xie argues that while a postcolonial approach heralds a period of increased understanding and tolerance it is hampered by a world saturated with imperialist ideas, stereotypes, and narratives (1).These ideas and stereotypes have become naturalized in our (Western) thinking and results in the subjugation of 'otherness to the sameness of Imperialism' (1). While commonalities between cultures do exist, Xie maintains that every culture has a unique system of meanings and values which should be celebrated rather than subsumed under generic terms and understandings. Xie argues that we need to move beyond Western Imperialism and otherness to embrace cultural multiplicity. She suggests that children's literature could play an important part in the process of decolonising the world by 'celebrating and legitimising difference' (4).

    Chapter 4, Continuity, Fissure, or Dysfunction: From Settler Society to Multicultural Society in Australian Fiction by John Stephens, which contrasts Australia of the 1950s as a settler society with contemporary Australia as a multicultural society, may also be of interest although the focus texts deal with European, rather than Asian, migrants to Australia.

  • Novels, Biographies, Autobiographies & Film

  • Cameleer / Rosanne Hawke

    'Jaime journeys to the outback to help on the station of Blake, a school friend. What she finds there is his little sister, Liesa, a troubled nine year old who befriends her. Jaime tells Liesa a story she has written about her experiences in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and this story becomes a healing and reconciliation process for each of them. Jaime's relationship with Blake strengthens romantically, and by the end of the novel she is comfortable with living in Australia again although her life in Pakistan will always be a part of her. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Hungry Ghosts / Sally Heinrich

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    'Sarah hadn't wanted to come to Australia. She'd been perfectly happy with things as they were in Singapore, where school was for learning, and "being cool" was a non-issue. Now Dad was trying his best to make her into a "fair dinkum" Aussie while Mum was determined to hang on to all the old Chinese traditions. As if the kids at Sarah's new school didn't have enough to give her a hard time about. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • The Whale's Child / Gillian Rubinstein

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    "Ken is an enthusiastic swimmer but he lives in the country and the only place to train is in the sea. When his best friend Caro gets her driver’s licence, the two of them join a swimming squad in the city. But while Caro seems to improve, Ken is struggling. The arrival of Ken’s Aunt Maya from Japan changes everything as she tells him the story of the Whale’s child and its significance to his heritage." (from author's website) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Bollywood Dreams / Wendy Fitzgerald

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    'Imagine that your world was like a Bollywood movie. Every day full of angst, drama, colour, music and dancing. India Singh wants her life to be like that. She is determined to make herself into a Bollywood Star. She is directing her family through the camera of her imagination. Her sister Shanti would rather be a horse, but she also likes to dance. Their brother Rahul is happy to step in to play the handsome hero, so is Vijay, her friend Sunita's brother.

    'India has a chance to go to Mumbai but her dream is shattered when her protective father uproots the family from their Darjeeling home to move to Sydney.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Mahtab's Story / Libby Gleeson

    Courtesy of Allen and Unwin.
    'Mahtab and her family are forced to leave their home in Herat and journey secretly through the rocky mountains to Pakistan and from there to faraway Australia. Months go by, months of waiting, months of dread. Will they ever be reunited with their father, will they ever find a home? This compelling novel by one of Australia's best-loved children's authors is based on the true story of one girl's voyage to Australia with her family.' (Publisher's blurb) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Getting it Right : Culturally and Historically Writing Mahtab's Story / Libby Gleeson

    Libby Gleeson discusses how she developed and then researched her novel Mahtab's Story. Gleeson originally planned that the story would involve a refugee student telling a young Australian school girl about her journey from her homeland to Australia . However, Gleeson soon realised that she needed to do additional research to construct the refugee Muslim teenager character. She describes how she met with refugee students from a Sydney high school to create an 'informed fiction' based on processes of storytelling and story-sharing. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • No One Like Me / Hoa Pham

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    'Huong and her friends are not the most popular girls in school. They don't have boyfriends, they aren't blonde, they don't play sport. Plus Huong has a family secret that she's not allowed to tell anyone about. Huong thinks that there is no one like her at school. But one day someone shows her that there is ...' (Source: Author's website) (...more)
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  • Embodying a Racialzed Multiculturalism : Strategic Essentialism and Lived Hybridities in Hoa Pham's No One Like Me / Debra Dudek

    Debra Dudek is interested in the intersection of multiculturalism, cultural citizenship and children's literature and in this article looks at the 'tension between representing an acceptance of cultural difference...and representing all people within one culture as the same' (43). She locates her analysis within the field of Asian-Australian studies through a discussion of Hoa Pham's No One Like Me (1998), the story of a young Vietnamese girl who lives in Australia with her family, arguing that the text 'simultaneously highlights and deconstructs gender and the Asian family as homogenous categories' (43). (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Walk in My Shoes / Alwyn Evans

    Courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.
    'After a perilous and terrifying escape from war-torn Afghanistan, Gulnessa and her family find themselves in Australia, a place they know nothing about. They are exhausted and traumatised, but so full of hope. At last, somewhere safe to call home. But their struggle isn't over yet. They are confined in a detention centre for asylum seekers, and forced to prove their refugee status. As days drag into weeks and months, Gulnessa is determined to stay strong. She must keep her family together, and fight for her friend Abdul - with whom she has secretly fallen in love. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Why Must we Go? Descriptions of Journeys to Australia from South East Asia / Valerie Volk (ed)

    First-person accounts of the refugee experiences of students from Richmond Girls' High School, in Victoria. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • The Voyage of the Lucky Dragon / Jack Bennett

    'A young Vietnamese boy recounts the perils and hardships endured by his family as they journey to Indonesia, Singapore, and finally to Australia seeking political asylum.' (Source: Google Books) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Tu'u Viet Nam (From Viet Nam) / Nga Hoang Nguyen

    Nga Hoang, aged 14 and living in Australia, receives a letter from her sister in Vietnam. The family photos and news make her homesick for her native land, although she has friends and good times also in Australia. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • On Loan / Anne Mary Brooksbank

    "At her fourteenth birthday party, Lindy wishes she knew her actual birthdate. But only her real parents would know, and they're both dead. Or so Lindy and her Australian family think until the letter from her natural father arrives. Now she must decide between two families and two futures, between Australia and Vietnam." (Source: Trove) (...more)
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  • My Long Story : A Vietnamese Woman's Story / Thinh Hoang

    'This is Thinh's account of her life in and eventual escape from war-torn Vietnam. Her journey takes us from the North to the South, through the fall of Saigon, a boat trip which culminates in a refugee camp in Malaysia and her early life in Australia' (Source: preface). (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Channeary / Steve Tolbert

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    When the Khmer Rouge attacks her small Cambodian fishing village, Channeary has to flee for her life, and eventually reaches the safety of a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, where she is offered a chance to come to Tasmania, another step into the unknown. (Libraries Australia record). (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Gaz / Warren Flynn

    'The central character, Gary, has all the insecurities, problems and interests common to so many 15-year-olds in the 1990s. He also has a love interest - an Asian girl new to the school whom Gary ignores at first, but develops a crush on as the story proceeds. (Source: Author’s website) (...more)
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  • Stepping Back / Steve Tolbert

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    Somaly is a sixteen year old part-Cambodian girl who has lived with her mother on the remote west coast of Tasmania since she was a toddler. Somaly's mother was a nurse in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia when she gave birth to Somaly. Shortly after that, Somaly's father was killed by a land mine and Somaly and her mum left the country for Tasmania. Juxtaposed with Somaly's life in Tasmania is the life of Keo, a traumatised Cambodian who lost an arm and his girlfriend in a Khmer Rouge ambush, and who now works as a hospital orderly on the Thai border. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Different Voices / Warren Flynn

    "Kim had hoped that the traumas of the past were now far behind her — leaving Vietnam, the forced separation from her family, and the horrifying boat journey to Australia. But the terrifying memories continued to surface when least expected. Yet, despite the nightmares, life in the small Australian coastal town seemed so ordinary, so safe. School was always the same, as was life with her uncle and aunt, and her relationship with Gary had become comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable. Suddenly it all changed. (...more)
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  • Refuge / Libby Gleeson

    'Andrew's sister Anna likes fighting for causes, and she's getting Andrew involved in her latest one - the plight of East Timorese asylum-seekers in Australia. Andrew's never broken the law before. But the law and the government don't seem to care about a stranger who's had to run for her life. Escaping a hostile regime. Seeking refuge . . .'. (Source: bookseller's website.) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Forune Cookies / Christine Harris

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    Image courtesy of publisher's website.
    The stories in this collection focus on Australian characters in Asia and Asians in Australia. (...more)
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  • Saving Saddler Street / Ruth Starke

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    A small rural school is earmarked for closure, something which will affect not only the students and teachers but the whole community. But the kids of Saddler Street are battlers, and they're not about to let their school be taken away from them. Part one of the story is set in 1937 and narrates the experiences of a Greek family who recently emigrated to Australia during economically difficult times. Part two is set in 1996. Sim, from a Vietnamese family, compares his own experiences to the history of his school in 1937. (...more)
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  • Delivery Day / Khoa Do

    'This short drama focuses on the experiences of second generation migrants in Australia. The story is based on 11-year-old Trang's attempts to get her Vietnamese mother to attend her school's parent-teacher interview, but it also happens to be delivery day for the garments in her mother's sweatshop and Mum is way too busy.' (National Film and Sound Archive record) According to an article in Integration no. 17 (2001-2003), Delivery Day is the first Vietnamese-Australian film to be made in Australia. (...more)
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  • The Full Story / Brian Caswell

    'From Saigon to Sydney, from Fremantle to the Blue Mountains. Three intensely emotional relationships begin to crumble in the present, under pressures from the secrets of the past. This is a modern love story - a compelling journey that peels away the superficial present to reveal the history that lingers at the core of who we are, and proves that we are the sum of all who love us. Even if we can never know the Full Story.'
    (Source: Google Books)
    (...more)
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  • Dreaming Australia / Steve Tolbert

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    Dreaming Australia tells the story of Soraya, a young girl from Masar e-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan. After her mother is killed in a missile attack, she is sent away with her brother and cousin to a people smuggler in Pakistan who will arrange for her to travel to Australia. But the journey through the mountains north of Kabul is dangerous, particularly after her two male escorts are commandeered by the Taliban to work as porters. Fortunately Soraya meets Muhammed, a rohani (or holy man), who guides her across the border to the city of Peshawar. (...more)
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  • Good Samaritan / Julia Haisley

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    When a boat carrying asylum seekers is wrecked south of Adelaide, local teenager Josh hides one of the escapees in his shed. The struggle to keep Habib hidden leads Josh to face formerly unknown challenges to his cosy, comfortable world. The tension builds as Josh combats different threats to Habib's safety, culminating in an exciting climax on the day of his sister's wedding. (back cover) (...more)
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  • The Arrival / Shaun Tan

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    "The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment.

    (...more)
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  • The Extraordinary True Story of a Boy's Journey from Starvation at Sea to Becoming one of Australia's Best-Loved Comedians / Anh Do

    Courtesy of Allen & Unwin.

    'Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing - not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days - could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.

    'Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything.

    (...more)
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  • Created by Cherie Allan

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