The Meanjin That Might Have Been
Melissa Lucashenko's new novel, Edenglassie, and Indigenous Realism
News & Reviews Magazine
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The piece you’re reading now is by Astrid Edwards. Astrid is the host of The Garret: Writers on Writing and has interviewed more than 200 of Australia’s most prominent writers and publishers. She is a teacher in the Associate Degree of Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT University and sometimes judges literary prizes, including the 2023 Stella Prize. In 2023 she began a PhD at the University of Melbourne exploring potential and perceived barriers to publishing and selling climate fiction in Australia. In 2021 Astrid contributed to the anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia and made her debut appearance on Q+A in 2021.
Astrid writes for News & Reviews Magazine every month. These are her last pieces, from the August, September, and October editions:
I interviewed Melissa Lucashenko, a Goorie author of Bundjalung and European heritage, before Edenglassie was published in early October. Revisiting the novel after the Voice Referendum I find it even more compelling. I see a time when Edenglassie could be used in the classroom (or let’s face it, the workplace) to spur conversations and begin to engage in the truth-telling that must come next for Australia.
The novels is set in Meanjin and moves between two timelines—2024 and 1854-1855.
Lucashenko: I introduced a contemporary storyline to get away from the dying, racist trope. Because if I've learned anything in 25-odd years of writing Australian fiction, it's that readers are apt to come from a position that blackfullas are, if not extinct, then so damaged that we might as well be extinct. And so I introduced the contemporary timeline to show very clearly that we're alive and firing on all cylinders.
The novel opens as wisecracking Granny Eddie falls onto concrete and ends up in hospital. She is a deeply stubborn centenarian with memories passed down from relatives who experienced the generation after First Contact. Granny Eddie is the standout character of this novel, and if I make it to 100 I intend to give as few fucks as she does. She spends much of the novel high on pethidine, and Lucashenko clearly had fun writing her.