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Talking to My Country

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An extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity.

In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australian and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man. 'We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier', he wrote, 'We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation's prosperity.'

Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.

TALKING TO MY COUNTRY is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country - what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?

230 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2016

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Stan Grant

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 394 reviews
Profile Image for Colin Baldwin.
Author 1 book242 followers
December 18, 2022
I thought long and hard about this review. I was initially tempted to leave it to the 4-star rating. I feared being a non-indigenous person (and also not born in Australia) trying to write about the plight of the First Nations Australians could be perceived as distasteful. And just that word ‘plight’ goes to the heart of my fear that it may offend. I don’t know of another word to use.

On reflection, this book demanded a response as it reinforced my respect for Stan Grant as a local and international reporter, TV moderator and producer. I have admired his expertise in asking respectful and pertinent questions. He has a gentleness about him, but he is also firm. And this also shows in his writing.

He tells of the many instances of marginalisation and racism, personal and historical, past and present, the prickly subjects of mix-race, awful statistics and what is defined (and not defined) as the Australian identity. Also, what happened to the former AFL star Adam Goodes. He sets out both sides of stories well.

What surprised me in this book was the candid commentary about his own vulnerabilities that were often buried beneath the surface, and his anger – yes, anger for what he sees as the ongoing injustices and discrimination. I applaud him for this. Grant expresses what many (most?) must feel in the Aboriginal community. I welcomed the ‘anger’ – how else are we going to set all this right?

If I had read this book on its release in 2016 and before watching a couple of comparable documentaries (‘The Australian Wars’ and ‘The Final Quarter’ about Adam Goodes), I am sure it would have encouraged a 5-star punch.

I feel a level of foreboding about the current initiative for ‘Constitutional recognition through an Indigenous Voice to the Australian Parliament’. It has already re-sparked the race debate and all its ugliness.

I hope Stan Grant keeps doing what he does best to help guide Australia through this.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,107 reviews6,569 followers
September 4, 2016
Every Australian needs to go and pick up this book right now and if you're not Australian and want to educate yourself on Australia's history and the injustices that still take place in our country today against the original owners of this land, then read this book.
What happened in this country needs to be recognised and discussed and not swept under the rug. In 1788, British people invaded a land they already knew was inhabited and massacred thousands of people. Years later, they stole Indigenous children away from their families to assimilate them and make them 'white'. Today, statistics have shown that Indigenous Australians are subject to 'poor health, poor housing, poor education, the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality' and are more likely to commit suicide, etc. The list goes on. Why? We need to work together to change this and as a future teacher, I will do my very best in educating my students about what happened in our country from 60,000 years ago to now and make sure that every student has the same opportunities in my classroom.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
809 reviews1,265 followers
November 21, 2018
Australian Aborigines Flag Indigenous Aust

Talking to My Country is a beautifully, exquisitely written book. Part memoir, part missive, Stan Grant writes openly and passionately about what it was like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia. What it is like to feel you are different. What it is like to feel you do not belong. What it is like to feel you don't have a country.

In this book, Stan Grant writes about the history of his people and about the settling of Australia by the British. Indigenous peoples were forced off their land, brutally murdered. had their children stolen from them. In just a 25 year period alone, more than 1,500 indigenous children were taken from their parents, to be raised in white cultured schools. The whites no doubt thought they were doing these children a favour, thinking as they did that their culture and whiteness was superior to that of the Aborigines. The harm that they did is still felt today, the pain still raw and present in the Aboriginal community. The legacy of the white takeover continues. Whilst many white Australians have become aware of the injustices done to the indigenous people and are sympathetic, blacks are still treated differently in Australia. There is still wide-spread, systemic racism. As he relates, "My people are fewer than three percent of the Australian population yet we are a quarter of the prison population."

In spite of his pain, Stan Grant does not hate white people and he harbors no hatred for white Australians. His own ancestry is mixed with the white settlers and the black people they stole from. It was interesting to read about his ancestors, both black and white.

I once attended a Survival Day corroboree in Sydney and wish I had been more aware then of the indigenous peoples' struggles. I would have had an even greater appreciation of their spirit and pride in their culture, appreciated more the opportunity to join in their festivities. Perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to attend another, with eyes more open to the issues they've had and still have. Mr. Grant draws parallels between the plight of African Americans and indigenous Australians. Being American, I see that they have been treated more like and have many of the same issues as Native Americans, not African Americans, though there are some similarities.

All in all, Talking to My Country is a wonderful book. Hopefully at some point, racism will be moved to the dark annals of history, a terrible mindset that people ONCE had, one that will be inconceivable to all people everywhere on earth. In order to get there, we first need to become aware of the suffering unjustly inflicted on people, merely because they are considered different and thus inferior. We need more books like Talking to My Country to bring to light the many injustices people of colour endure.

Thank you to the author, Edelweiss+, and Harper Collins for providing me with a DRC of this book. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

"There is nothing genetic that separates us; what divides us is our history -- what we have done to each other in the name of race."
Profile Image for Mark Howden.
4 reviews2 followers
February 29, 2016
I really got a lot out of reading this. It doesn't aim solve our problems here in Australia but that wasn't its purpose. But what it does do is a damn good job of highlighting the cultural inequalities between white and Indigenous Australians.
Writing with passion and purpose, Stan is simply showing us the challenges he faced growing up identified as indigenous. He admits through the hard work of his parents and a few circumstances of timing he was able to tread a path to success that was away from the indigenous life that finds the majority of Aboriginal Australians. He speaks of the lives of family and friends that are either lost or irreversibly damaged because of social inequality still present today.
Some readers may be uncomfortable with the level of detail and what they may see as accusation in Stan’s words, but this book is important to further push our ideal of a unified Australia.
I identify myself as a white Australian descended purely from European settlement. I would love to have come away from reading this having worked out the answers to our nation’s identity crisis, but that’s just wishful thinking for someone intimidated by the challenges our issues present. It is going to be incredibly hard for mainstream Australia to collectively accept the atrocities that plagued white settlement. The colossal challenge of getting people to lay claim to a history of oppression and injustice needs to be recognized. We are talking about redefining a major element of a nation’s identity. It is hard to think of where to even begin.
As a start, Stan Grant has put his heart and the heart of his country out there for everyone to see. Like it or not, we’re really starting to talk about it.
Stan’s example is fanning a fire within me that has been smouldering for some time. That’s why I'm willing to lay claim to the actions of my white ancestors. That why I am willing to represent my ancestors the same way Stan represents his. That’s why I am willing be held accountable.
It’s going to be a hard journey. See you on the road.
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
929 reviews104 followers
March 27, 2023
Heartfelt writing by one of Australia's most respected journalists. I learned more about the history of my adopted country from the viewpoint of a native Australian, and it is not easy reading. Mr Grant talks about his personal journey growing up here, but also about his time living overseas as a journalist for CNN working in some of the world's most dangerous places. I often read Mr Grants news articles about Australia and China with the ABC and Guardian, I always find them interesting and informing. It was nice to get to know the man more.

It was also nice to read about his relationship with two native Australians I have had the honour to cross paths with, albiet briefly. I used to sometimes play basketball with Ernie Dingo at the outside courts at Darling Harbour, when they were still there. I also had the honour of briefly meeting Adam Goodes when our paths crossed as White Ribbon Ambassadors, when there still was a thing.

Good stuff, so much to still learn.
Profile Image for Vivian.
238 reviews256 followers
May 28, 2017
Wow. It's almost 4AM. I couldn't put this book down. I should probably get some sleep before I collect my thoughts on this but how on earth could I give this book anything less than 5 stars?!?
Profile Image for Grace.
256 reviews40 followers
May 21, 2016
When I first picked this up I thought "oh it's only short, I'll probably finish this in a night." How wrong I was. Every page required quiet reflection before I could move on. Sometimes I found myself staring off into space, the previous paragraph whirring around my mind. If this is what it's like in Stan Grant's mind all the time no wonder he is often perceived as aloof or standoffish, I suspect his mind is just racing at a million miles an hour.

Obviously, reading this book, I have a vastly different understanding and interpretation as I sit on my gilded seat of white privilege, handed down to me through my English and white Australian heritage. Add to that how completely different my childhood was from Grant's; I stayed in the same (private) school my whole life, my family was well-off. Then again, I feel that I was the target audience for this book. An aboriginal man is explaining to white Australians how we still have racism embedded in us, and that we have a tendency to bury our heads in sand.

As Grant spoke of his heritage, his ancestors laid to waste, the brutality of the invaders whose hands are covered in indigenous blood, I thought about my own heritage and what it was like learning about some of this Aboriginal history for the first time. As a child at school, I wasn't bullied for my skin colour. I even got to learn about the Dreamtime and make dot paintings and got to visit traditional indigenous sites and museums, as I lived in an area in the Northern Rivers where there was a strong aboriginal community (traditionally the Bundjalung people.) In this area you can see the clash of cultures in the names of places and streets: Murwillumbah, Tumbulgum, Mullumbimby, Coolangatta - Mt Warning, Tweed River, Surfers Paradise, Kingscliff. When I was young, it was fun learning about this indigenous heritage as I was none-the-wiser. That is until grade 7, when we first learned of the Stolen Generation and the White Australia Policy.

It wasn't long after that I learned my father migrated to Australia as part of the White Australia Policy- his parents took part in the campaign known as the Ten Pound Pom- a campaign dedicated to ensuring the whitest of the white would want to move to Australia, to dilute the "blackness", to ensure the majority were white. My grandparents were living in post-WW2 England and had just lost their eldest son, my father's brother. They took a chance on Australia.

How vastly different my life is to Stan Grant's! And yet even as I learned of more and more atrocities (gasping when I saw a local town, Evans Head, and the word 'massacre' after it- only to find a one sentence explanation on Wikipedia of what happened there), I understood what Grant was saying. The way he would talk about the country, the stars in the night sky, the connection with the land. Until I was 18 I lived in the rainforest with a stunning view of the ocean. It was untouched, save for our house, some paddocks and our gravel driveway. I would walk outside and constantly be reprimanded by my father who would shout "put some shoes on!" but I couldn't resist the feeling of the dirt beneath my calloused feet, the feeling of bark as I deftly climbed a tree, or the feeling of sinking my feet into a bubbling stream. When I was 18 and moved to Melbourne, to the suburbs, I couldn't understand all the NOISE. I felt trapped because I could no longer see the stars from light pollution. I miss the rainforest, the dirt beneath my feet, the land that belonged to me- except it didn't. It was taken from someone else. I can only imagine the hurt, the "what if" feeling, the absolute rage that must be inside our indigenous people.

Stan Grant has done us a favour, explaining what it's like to be an indigenous person in modern Australia. I've come out of this book with a deeper understanding. I don't know what Australia needs to do to unify and reconcile our past, but I think we can try harder with the next generation. This needs to be a text that is read in high school. We can't keep covering our ears and shouting "what me? Couldn't be!" when the word "racism" is brought up. This is a must read for all Australians, if only so that further understanding can be reached. I hope it was in some way therapeutic for Grant to write and he has my utmost respect.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,021 followers
September 16, 2016
Holy wow.

This book is ridiculously powerful. Grant takes key moments from his life and uses them as jumping off points to discuss topics like Indigenous history, the treatment of Indigenous people by both Australia's white population and the Federal Government, Indigenous mental health, and racism in twenty first century Australia.

It's a heartbreaking book. It's beautifully written. I feel like I highlighted about half the book. I cried about ten times. Every Australian should read this book. Highly, HIGHLY recommended.
Profile Image for RitaSkeeter.
698 reviews
April 25, 2016
We know indigenous Australians have poorer outcomes on a whole host of measures. We know they have lower longevity. We know there is poorer health. We know infant mortality is higher. We know they are more likely to be imprisoned. We know their children are more likely to be in care. I could continue this list on and on, but this country seemed paralysed at recognising and acting on what those statistics tell us.

Whilst Grant covers what the statistics tell us, first and foremost this is a book that explores what is to be Aboriginal in today's Australia. The mirror it shines isn't flattering. We like to think of ourselves as the lucky country. The country where anyone can get a fair go, and anyone can become anything they want to be if they work hard enough. Grant's book brings us to the point that all of that is true, if born with white privilege . The scars of invasion continue to have significant impacts on our indigenous people, and Grant's book shows us what that can mean on an individual level.

This is a book that really needs to be read for yourself. Aboriginal voices have long been lost, and it is important to read the story unfiltered in Grant's own voice. It is powerful. It is distressing. It initiates self-reflection.

A few quotes that particularly resonated with me:

"Always I wondered about us, who we were and what put us here. I was aware always that we were marked by something more than poverty; that no amount of hard work, honesty or decency would untether us from our destiny. We lived in Australia and Australia was for other people."

"We could always meet and love white people for who they were. White people themselves were not the problem, the problem was a system built on white privilege."

"I tell him of the little boy I once was who felt so ashamed of his colour that he tried to scrub it off. I tell him of the ache of poverty and how my family had roamed the back roads looking for a home in a land we had lost. I tell him how a sideways glance or a snickering child could steal our souls. I tell him how we have learned to measure our words and lower our voices for fear of being howled down. I tell him that even now despite carving out a place for myself I could so easily be crushed by rejection. And he listens. He gives me the space to find these words and he lets them settle."

We all need to listen. We all need to hear these words and let them settle. We need to work to find ways of helping the scars heal. We can do better Australia. We can do better.
Profile Image for Mentai.
186 reviews
July 22, 2016
This is a book that should travel the lengths and breadth of white Australia. Stan Grant weaves his own family's history with the 60,000 year legacy of Indigenous history and the short impact of white settlement, attempted genocide, forced separation, segregation, banning of languages and stealing of children. Grant maps his personal journey as a journalist, his successful rise out of poverty, and the personal toll that takes on him as an aboriginal man who travels between worlds, spaces and times. This is a book about the impact of a still-living, racist history on masculine, indigenous subjectivity.

Grant concludes the book with an interview with Adam Goodes and the racist taunts that played out in the football ground from 2013 to 2015. I found this part of the book so tragic, bringing me to tears. That this racist vitriol erupted with such force en masse in an arena around a single man - up until then, a hero for the Sydney Swans - is something Australia should discuss and find concern in.

The despair for me, was evoked by Goodes' identifying of himself as an assimilated man: 'I am mainstream Australia ... whether I am indigenous or not.' According to Grant, Goodes faced history (not only by studying Aboriginal Studies at university, but by experiencing it, as his mother was one of the stolen generation) and while angry, he found acceptance by assimilating into a successful football career, the pinnacle mainstream white Australian masculinity. Goodes also worked toward reconciliation; he won Brownlow medals and led premiership teams.

At this stage in our present we need to ask what drives such a pervasive verbal assualt and abuse of white against black, a man descendent from the first Australians. Perhaps it is because of a greater visibility of aboriginal high achievers; perhaps it is because of Rudd's public apology to the stolen generation; and perhaps because there are still those who deny the impact of white settlement on black life, like climate change deniers. (You can find them on the internet, incidentally). Perhaps because we are debating whether we should have an aboriginal treaty or enter indigenous recognition in a constitution. Maybe it is because there is more aboriginal discourse in the public realm. Perhaps, because of an upswell in amazing aboriginal arts, languages and cultures, the racism that lay dormant found a lightening rod in Adam Goodes, who dared to bring aboriginal culture in the form of a dance to the footy field. He compromised not only the white footballer by becoming too successful, as Grant suggests, but also gender and genre norms by stretching the boundaries of what is 'doable' on the football field by a 'man'.
A riveting and mournful read that leads one to reflection. Sometimes a little meandering, but Grant brings his A game for all the key moments and weaves together the historical to the present in an elegant and accessible fashion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Caroline.
606 reviews807 followers
July 15, 2020
Excellent, excellent, excellent book!

Such an important book for any Australian to read (or really for anyone wishing to know more about growing up Aboriginal in Australia and the ongoing impact of racism and its history in our country). Stan Grant writes with passion, vividly describing his youth, family history and then experiences as a journalist. He writes about the connection to the land and his ancestors, as well as the atrocities committed against them. He writes about poor government policy and the ongoing racism in Australia with the targeted hatred against AFL player Adam Goodes as a recent example.

This book is powerful. I found myself pausing frequently to reread passages that stuck out or phrased something in an incredible way. There are so many stand-out moments in this book and it was great to read. I look forward to rereading it one day, hopefully when the issues it discusses are not such a blight on present day Australia.
Profile Image for Zohal.
1,185 reviews113 followers
January 2, 2023
I reread this every January and it never loses its importance. Stan Grant's writing is brimming with life, so poetic and lyrical.

The book that every Australian must read.

Part autobiography, part memoir and part history Stan Grant with his stunning prose talks to his country as a means of self-reflection. We as readers are lucky enough to be able to read this self-reflection and take part in it, as we too turn to look at Australia in a new light.

General thoughts
- His writing style is mesmerizing and makes the work both thought provoking and engaging.
- He paints Indigenous culture for what it is- both sacred and beautiful
- Stan Grant talks to the country itself and not necessarily the reader.
- In a way he paints Australia as multifaceted and even touches upon the complexity of identity living in Australia
- Focuses on how we are all part of this country once we have lived on it for so long, it is just that we belong and connect in different ways.
- Both emotional and hard hitting with a lot of stories and facts that are new to the reader.
- Stan Grant himself I personally found I could easily relate to due to his love for reading and his love for journalism. In this way, the story spoke to me on an even deeper level than it probably intended to initially.

All in all, highly recommend!
Profile Image for Rod Hunt.
174 reviews
March 17, 2017
All non-indigenous people living on this continent should read this book.
Profile Image for Luke.
534 reviews31 followers
November 6, 2020
My book reviews are generally a bit tongue-in-cheek. You know, a bit of back and forth, a bit of piss-taking.

Not today. Because Talking To My Country is too serious for fucking about.

There's a certain type of shock-jock that would suggest this book (and others focusing on Australia's thorny, sometimes hopeless-seeming struggle to make sense of our national identity) be written off as black armband history. That it's something designed to make people feel guilty for being white, for crimes committed generation before them. That it's all virtue signalling, or a big wank.

We have been told what an Australian is and we know so often, in so many ways, we are not that. We die ten years younger than other Australians. We are twelve times more likely to be locked up. Over the age of forty, we are six times more likely to go blind. Indigenous children are said to have the highest rates of deafness in the world. Indigenous people are three times more likely to be jobless than other Australians.

Those people are cowards. And they're wrong. Grant's writing has a fair amount of anger at white history and white privilege, it's true, but he's coming from both a place of investigation. The writing, while calling for greater integration, for greater reckoning with the things done in the name of our country, is at heart the personal struggle of one man to understand who he is, and how his history shapes him.

That I am on television, earn a good living and send my kids to good schools, does not redeem our history. It is as illogical as saying Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister vanquished sexism. Of course it is a step forward, but the fact that it is exceptional reminds us how far we have to go, how far apart we are in this country.

Outwardly successful, Grant – the son of a Wiradjuri man and a Kamilaroi woman, a man with an Irish surname – is consumed by the tensions of his history, both Black and white. Taking the 2015 shitstorm of fuckery levelled at Adam Goodes as a starting point – something explained at length in here – Talking To My Country in the main provides both an exploration of the author's history, and an explanation of dispossession and the long shadow it casts.

This book speaks adroitly of the Australian dichotomy. That relatives of Grant's were good enough to go to war and fight for this country, but weren't good enough to be allowed to ride the train home when they returned. We're reminded of the increased levels of incarceration, of incapacitation and death. Of the push of the past to make First Nations people invisible, even as the meaning of placenames celebrating their deaths slip from our minds.

I was aware always that we were marked by something more than poverty; that no amount of hard work, honesty or decency would untether us from our destiny. We lived in Australia and Australia was for other people.

I live in Wiradjuri country now, outside a small town. I moved here from a large city and while I might be having a lend of myself, being outside the built environment has made me feel much more aware of the weight of the land, if not making me a part of it. It's funny, while I'm further away from markers of "history" as you'd find in towns, I've become more aware of the current of time running through this place – seeing actual seasons and cycles. And I'm acutely aware that though I live here, this is land that belongs – traditionally – to other people. People who aren't as visible on their own lands as they should rightly be.

I'm a white Australian. I could read this, feel horrible and put it away and go on with the life I enjoy thanks to generations of privilege. It's much harder – and a work in progress – for me to read this, sit with the burden that First Nations peoples across the country, and then try to figure out what to do next. To figure how to be an ally, and a useful one. To think about things like the Redfern address, and to wonder what's happened since then.

It's difficult. But as a grown-ass man in Australia, I've got to do it. If you live here, so do you. Read this book, and let's try to figure out how to make shit better. We owe this land that much.

Here is how we – indigenous people – see the Australian dream: here’s the worst of it. Aborigines rounded up and shot, babies buried into the sand and decapitated, women raped, men killed as they hid in the forks of trees, waterholes poisoned, flour laced with arsenic. The Australian dream abandoned us to rot on government missions, tore apart families, condemned us to poverty. There was no place for us in this modern country and everything we have won has come from dissent, it has been torn from the reluctant grasp of a nation that for much of its history hoped that we would disappear.

Always was, always will be.
Profile Image for Ali.
1,355 reviews110 followers
November 12, 2016
I've known that this book was out for some time, but was put off reading it. Maybe because Stan Grant looms largest in my consciousness as the host of Today Tonight in the 1990s - a program with the distinction of having both ruined many lives, and spread a fair bit of oft-racist disinformation. But several people with similar taste to me told me I needed to read it, and I can see why. Even a couple of weeks after I finished, the book still sounds in my eyes.

Firstly, this is a powerfully, carefully and skillfully written book. Grant is a exceptional journalist, and he knows how to speak. Specifically, he knows how to speak truth - not just a factual truth, but a deep emotional truth. Grants systematically strips his soul bare, speaking his experience as a Wiradjuri man, with Kamilaroi ties, born, raised and living in Australia. He speaks of pain, of shame, of frustration, of rage. He talks of belonging and not belonging. Of success, which is both undermined by racism, and also a great gulf between him and some of his people. He speaks of love, and family and country. And he tells, so very painfully and honestly, of how he was only able to find some peace in a warzone, where the struggles were not his, and the endlessly impossible relationship between him and his country could be put aside: "All that sleeplessness, the roiling anger, the deep sadness: it didn’t come from Pakistan or Afghanistan or China. It was Australia that had brought me so low. Australia was all I could think of and it flooded me with despair."

TBH, it made my reservations, based on a job of some decades ago, seem pretty petty and small. My politics are far to the left of Grant's still, but that doesn't change or downgrade his experience. It doesn't make him any the less worth listening to. (Grant himself doesn't mention Today Tonight, although there are a few oblique references, including one of his regrets doing commercial current affairs).

And it is such a work to read: "Here is how we – indigenous people – see the Australian dream: here’s the worst of it. Aborigines rounded up and shot, babies buried into the sand and decapitated, women raped, men killed as they hid in the forks of trees, waterholes poisoned, flour laced with arsenic. The Australian dream abandoned us to rot on government missions, tore apart families, condemned us to poverty. There was no place for us in this modern country and everything we have won has come from dissent, it has been torn from the reluctant grasp of a nation that for much of its history hoped that we would disappear." Grant understanding of how to use words to draw an audience in makes it a strange kind of pleasure to read. Not because the story is a good one, but because all Grant wants is to get non-Indigenous Australia to shut up, sit down and listen. Grant presents no solutions in this book, and there is scant political analysis. You get the sense of a man who sees so many contradictions, but keeps coming back to the need to communicate the sadness and frustration of our excluded Indigenous people. There may be many Indigenous leaders whose politics resonate more with my own, but there are few people in Australia with this skill in expression. As such, it is likely to be one of the most important Australian works written in the 21st Century.
Profile Image for Jessica.
126 reviews3 followers
August 3, 2018
A sobering read.

I went through school in the forgotten history generation. I was in year 5 during the bicentenary and we all dressed up as white settlers and convicts. The version of history we were taught was one of peaceful “settlement” and I can’t even remember if aboriginal perspectives were included at all.

It wasn’t until I did my teaching masters that I learned the true story of colonization. I wrote essays on the frontier wars, the stolen generations, the high rates of indigenous incarceration and the poverty cycle which is so hard to break from when you are suffering from the traumas of the past.

I have many friends who share the “it’s time to get over it” opinion. They say things like “it happened 200 years ago”.

While this was an important read, I’m not sure that it would change the minds of my “it’s time to get over it friends”. I’m not sure what would do that? Personally I think they need to develop their sense of empathy.

I’m hoping that the next generation will be more empathetic to indigenous history as indigenous perspectives are now included in our curriculum.

At each school event we do a welcome to country. We say “We must always remember that under the concrete and asphalt this land is, was, and always will be, traditional Aboriginal land.”

Last year we taught a first contact unit and the kids wrote journal entries from the perspective of convict kids on the first fleet as well as indigenous kids living in Sydney. They had to consider how it would feel if it happened to them.

It’s a start... a small start but one that isn’t going to change things right now.
Profile Image for Sue.
124 reviews
March 13, 2016
Adam Goodes made me aware of the ignorance and bigotry of white Australia. Stan Grant helped me understand what it is to be a black Australian. I still don't know what to do about it though. No answers, only understanding and it just doesn't feel like it's enough.
Profile Image for Richard Laznik.
44 reviews
May 7, 2020
Stan Grant has written the book that us whitefellas should read to begin our journey in understanding this land. Then peruse the sources list at the back and continue.
Profile Image for Andrew Carr.
471 reviews100 followers
May 5, 2016
The ideal book review is written by someone who knows more than the author. They set the story in context, they point out missed connections, and tie it to a broader story. This is not one of those reviews. I know precious little of what Stan Grant speaks, and understand even less. Not only in the history spoken of, but in some ways how the author connects to that history is also foreign to me.

Talking to My Country is part memoir of his family, part plea to understand what his people have been through. Early on I found myself somewhat arguing back, treating this as a politics book and looking for him to provide policy answers. But the quality of Grant’s writing soon calmed that impulse and by the end, I was grateful for having had a chance to simply listen to the experiences of his family and how he and his people have felt about Australia.

What fascinated me most in this powerful book was the relationship between the author and history. Grant escaped Australia for many years, yet felt compelled to return and re-immerse himself in the culture and history of his people. He knows this history is painful and enraging, and yet feels it vital his son truly understands. He feels Australia has moved on, and yet incidents like the booing of Adam Goodes make him fear nothing has changed. And despite being a highly successful man of the world, he finds himself in the land and practices of his family long before.

Grant’s desire to escape is perhaps the one thing I best understand. In the face of generations, centuries of hurt and humiliation for indigenous people, who wouldn’t want a future elsewhere? You don’t have to be in pain to take that approach either. For children with even a reasonable start to life, the future is often the only focus of merit. It represents an opportunity to make something of yourself, to create an identity and record worthy of respect. To be free of history is both the desire of those most weighted down, and those most at liberty to wander.

And yet, for those who have suffered from history, it is precisely that weight which many find salvation in. Grant tells a remarkably similar story to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Both describe a youthful journey of finding an identity through an wholehearted embrace of their people’s history.

One example of this, though one I found slightly confusing on a personal level, was Grant’s story of his great-grandfather. Bill Grant was a man of whom he knows little except that he lived out his days ‘on a mission set up to ease the misery of the remnants of the Wiradjuri; now homeless and adrift in his land’. Grant visits the site of the mission and discovers ‘In a small book listing the names of the people of Bulgandramine mission I found something else, something that makes sense of the life I have lived. It connects me to my love of words and stories. In this book there is a listing for Bill Grant. Next to it is one word: storyteller.’

Grant is a hugely successful figure. He has worked as a leading figure in Australian newsrooms and across the globe, and is a giant of his industry. When he raised the possibility of running for political office, no one doubted that he could do it, and do very well at it. So why does he feel his life did not make sense before (or perhaps makes more sense now) when he discovers that an ancestor was also a storyteller?

Grant is not alone in valuing a connection between the tendencies of those in his family tree with his own. Many across the ethnic and cultural spectrum do the same. But I am not one of them. My grandmother tells me we are related to A.B Facey (author of “A Fortunate Life”). But I don’t feel this says anything about whether I can write, or my love of writing. I feel that information tells me nothing about me, yet for Grant a similar piece of information is vital to him.

Grant comes closest to explaining the importance of his connection with history when recounting his return to Australia, after his time at CNN and struggles with depression. “Sadness” he says “has always felt so much more familiar and so it is safer. We can live in its confines…Hapiness feels like giving in, it feels like surrender. Happiness feels like the past is over and done and I am not yet ready for that” (p164). Perhaps this gives some insight. I still don’t quite understand, but I feel I can better empathize thanks to Grants efforts to try and explain.

Like any true journalist, Grant’s writing is best when grounded. As we get closer to today, invocations of people and pain become all the more poignant and powerful. The story of his grandfather the war veteran humiliated on ANZAC day is particularly moving. Returning to his parents the second time around, deep into the book, we get a much more complete sense of their struggles, from the hard early life, through to small humiliations like being ignored for service in a café last year. There is a pounding rhythm to Grant’s writing, that when focused on specific people and moments, provides a pushing, breathless beat that has real power.

I don’t know enough about the history and situation of the indigenous people of Australia. In truth, part of me doesn’t want to know, given the terrible statistics and sense of hopelessness of seeing real change anytime soon. But perhaps more important than the general public knowing the numbers is that our society develops a greater empathy and sense of understanding of what this ancient culture has gone through. And the fact that after 115 years of history in the nation which claimed their lands, they are still trying to find a voice and be heard.
Profile Image for Lisa.
3,375 reviews429 followers
December 21, 2016
Stan Grant’s new book, Talking to My Country has had a lot of publicity, so I bought a copy to see what the noise was about.

It’s well-named. It’s straight talking to Australians, about what it means to be Aboriginal in this country. It’s Stan Grant’s personal and family history, placed in the context of Australia’s national and social history.

And because Stan Grant has ‘made it’ in mainstream Australian society and on the international stage, it will have resonance with people who might otherwise react negatively or ignore it.

It might be a game-changer…
Profile Image for Michelle_Mck.
63 reviews33 followers
October 29, 2016
Full review to come, however this book is incredible, it is a must read for all Australians, important and worthwhile observations and facts of what it is to be Aboriginal in Australia. I can't imagine a people more resilient (other than the Irish of course) This is such an important book for people to read.
Profile Image for Millie May.
243 reviews16 followers
January 28, 2019
This book is just amazing. It really opened up my eyes to the injustices that people face in the country that I live in. I highly recommend everyone - no matter where they are from read it. It teaches you to stop and think before you say, or post, or write something.
June 18, 2020
I really, really enjoyed this. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is due to the fact that I felt it jumped around a bit too much, bringing me out of the book to try to keep track of what country we were in, or what age the author was.
Profile Image for Justine.
50 reviews5 followers
May 17, 2016
I really liked this book by Stan Grant. It is easy to read, yet hits hard at the truths we as a nation and a people are so good at glancing over. I think it should be required reading in all Australian high schools. Stan Grant takes us on a journey through his history (our own Australian history) but is never preachy, never angry (although he does acknowledge his anger) and never behaves as a victim or asks to be treated in any way like one. He shares his understanding of what it is like to grow up in this country and be part of it and yet be denied (and deny yourself) that part. I came out of this book wanting a new flag that recognises our Indigenous people, a new national anthem that all Australians can sing with pride, and open eyes about the way we use words to make light of terrible actions. Colonisation is just a nice way of saying invasion and we should realise this and never forget it. We can and we should do our best to redress these wrongs otherwise we as a country will always have a festering sore at our centre. Let's have the discussions, let's have the arguments, let's get the racist thinking at the heart of our history out of our country for good. Grant quotes Ta-Nehisi Coates and says that "racism is the father of race" and this is something I believe to be true. We are all human, all capable of good and all capable of bad, all capable of stupidity and of love. Why does colour seem to matter so much? (I also read Boy, Snow, Bird recently which is a take on the Snow White fairytale from the POV of the stepmother but with colourism thrown in. Also a good read, also thought provoking.) Get out and read Talking to my country by Stan Grant and then talk to me about it. I'd be interested in your thoughts.
Profile Image for Stevie.
77 reviews1 follower
April 7, 2017
I've been meaning to read Stan Grant's book for a long time, and I'm stoked that I finally got around to it.
Stan Grant is a truly inspirational person. He endured a tough childhood where he constantly battled with his identity and moving around. His parents were hard-working and loving, but struggled. Grant shares the journey he took to become a world renowned journalist, along with the highs and lows of an extremely demanding job.

I found it easy to connect with this text. It's incredibly emotional and moving, while still attempting to understand the perspectives of others. The only criticism I have of this text is that it's repetitive at times. There are a few moments of deja vu.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this autobiography. It reveals what's behind the stern, professional face Australians are accustomed to seeing on our television, and these revelations are truly breath taking.
Profile Image for Kimbofo.
818 reviews164 followers
December 10, 2016
“What does it feel like to be an indigenous person in Australia?”

This is the question journalist Stan Grant wrestles with in a radio interview upon his return to Australia after a decade working overseas. It’s the same question he wrestles with in Talking to My Country, a heartfelt and deeply personal memoir about what it is to be an Aboriginal growing up in Australia.

To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

Profile Image for Kim Miller.
229 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2017
Ok, so I made the mistake of reading this straight after 'The tears of strangers.' Do yourself a favour - don't do that. 'Talking to my country', if read alone, would be a 5 star book. A book that all Australian's should read. And think about. And talk about.

But after reading 'The tears of strangers' I found this one super repetitive. I'm not sure why Grant needed to write two books. Perhaps a re-release of 'Tears of strangers' with a prologue and epilogue might have been more effective?

But ignore that. Cling to the fact that this is a book that needs to be read.
Profile Image for Thomas.
429 reviews9 followers
January 27, 2016
A must read book for all Australians. A beautiful book that mixes memoir with facts, and it's mostly a tale of remembering. It's like Between the World and Me but easier to grasp from a narrative point of view. Do read it.
34 reviews
February 23, 2016
It's difficult to give this book a rating as it is such a personal story. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about what it means to be indigenous in Australia today. Thank you Stan for writing it.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
483 reviews8 followers
March 1, 2016
Heartbreaking, at times shocking and very personal, this is a real Australian history. Just read it.
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