Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sally Morgan

I feel a bit silly researching Sally Morgan. I read her whole autobiography. What can the Internet tell me that her book didn't?

But since my memory isn't perfect, I've probably forgotten much of the book. Maybe the research will help refresh my memory.

Before I go any further, let me say that I highly recommend the autobiography. It's one of my favorite Australian books.

Basically the story is about a woman who's an Indigenous Australian; but she doesn't know she's indigenous because her family is ashamed of it. The book is about her slowly learning about, and embracing, her heritage. It's a beautiful story.

Morgan's father was an alcoholic. I think I had a dream last night that symbolized alcoholism. I dreamed I was a man...or at least I think I was a man. It was kind of vague. My mother drank this horrible chemical that made her very mean, but also very strong. She was scary. At times, it might have been a father instead of a mother. I don't know. This was one of these gender-confusion dreams.

Anyway, the situation was very frightening. I tried several times to throw my mother over the balcony...kill her. But each time she held on, and survived.

At one time she started vomiting the stuff up. I encouraged her to drink her vomit. I think I had this hope that doing this would reverse things somehow. I'm not sure if it worked or not. But eventually she got well. And then she looked like MY mom...the one I have in real life. She promised never to drink that stuff again. I looked doubtful. She then suggested we throw all the drink away so we don't need to worry about it. I told her that wouldn't matter. The drink is easy to make. There was no way to escape it. The only hope was she'd make a conscious decision NOT to drink.

I'm not sure why I dreamed that. Maybe it was to help give me SOME insight into how it might feel to have an alcoholic parent.

Morgan's father's story was a pretty sad one. I forgot the details, but he had been in the war. I think it had been a very traumatic experience, and it messed up his life. Then, in turn, his drinking made life very difficult for his wife and kids.

Anyway, I guess I shall start my research.

Lord Wiki says baby Sally was born on 18 January 1951. She's about two years younger than my dad.

She's a writer AND artist. I don't know if I knew about the art part. Did she mention that in the book? She probably did. I probably just forgot.

I bet she made the illustration on the book cover then.

Morgan was born in Perth. She was the oldest of five siblings.

People questioned Morgan's background because she and her family didn't look white. When Morgan questioned her family about this, she was told that her ancestors were from India. I remember that from the book.

My background has been questioned at times. During my teen years, my family went to Las Vegas. An Iranian cab driver insisted I must be from Iran. More recently, when I went to the thrift store, the cashier from Iraq thought I must be from Iraq too.

I don't know. For some reason I look Middle Eastern sometimes. I look like the rest of my family. I don't think there's a secret adoption in the picture. But yet they don't look as Middle Eastern as I do. Maybe my dad....a little bit.

When Morgan was in high school, she learned the truth. Her ancestors were not from India. They were from Australia....part of the Palku people.

Lord Wiki says that as a child Morgan liked the story of Winnie the Pooh. I don't really remember that from the book.

Morgan's autobiography was published in 1987.

Lord Wiki says there has been some disputes about the book. It's not surprising. I don't remember the exact details, but the book had a lot of paternal confusion. Who is father to who....and all that stuff.

Oh! My Goodness! I think I'm remembering stuff now. The dispute comes from the annoying white people featured in the book. I forgot the details, but I remember feeling angry with them. I think they pretty much exploited Morgan's grandmother. Anyway, one of these white people has written her own book. It's called Wongi Wongi. A website for the book says, Wongi Wongi tells a story, not of a people dispossessed, but a people loved and cared for by their employers.

Well, I guess there's always two sides to every story.

Morgan wrote another book. I didn't know that. Maybe I'll read it someday. It's called Wanamuuragany, and it's about about her grandpa.

In 1996, she did a children's book called Dan's Grandpa. She didn't illustrate the book. That surprises me since she's an artist.

She has more books besides that. Lord Wiki lists them at the bottom of his entry. There's five biographical books. Oh wait. I think all these books are put together in My Place, or at least some of them are. I guess you can buy the stories seperately as well.

In the copy I have, the first 167 pages are Morgan's own story. Then there's a section about Arthur Corunna. I've unfortunately forgotten who he is. I THINK he might have been Morgan's uncle, or maybe a great-uncle?  Then there's a section about her mother's story, and a section about her grandmother's story.

I just lay one of my favorite Australian books (Morgan's) on top of the worst book ever written by an Australian author....well, at least in MY opinion. I quickly separated the books. Putting them together like that seems almost unholy.

Lord Wiki has a brief entry on My Place itself. There's been controversy surrounding the book. He talks about how some people believe white people read it and think something like Oh! I read the book! I'm not racist anymore. I understand Aboriginal Australia.

Anytime you have a book about one person (or a family) from a whole group of people, there's the danger that people will assume that this one story says it all. But although I don't think one book can remove ALL of our racism, I think reading My Place can perhaps reduce it. Maybe? Who knows....

I don't.

Here's an interview with Morgan on the website for the Arts Law Centre of Australia. What is the Arts Law Centre? Oh okay. It's a resource for artists regarding legal stuff like copyrights.

Morgan is asked how she got into writing. She says it was never an ambition for her, but she loved to read. She started writing simply because she felt compelled to tell her family's story. I wonder if that's how most writers start out....with just a NEED to tell a story.

Morgan says she thinks her book has encouraged other people to tell their story. I think that would be another important benefit of her writing such a book.

Morgan says, I would like to encourage Indigenous people to tell their stories, whether its through writing or painting or dance, music or theatre. Our stories are important, the more stories the better. We can all learn from each other, and it helps to build the bigger picture.

I think she said that very well. If there's worry that people will assume that My Place is trying to speak for all of Aboriginal Australia, write more books! The more that's out there, the more variety of experiences we'll hear. Then I won't have to go around thinking that all Indigenous Australians are clones of Sally Morgan.

Oh! That's another thing I dreamed about last night. Clones. I dreamed of a place where everyone had a clone. But the clones only looked like their twins. Their personality was more like the pod folks from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They were a bit blank and blah. This one clone went to talk to some young man. It made the man sad because the clone was a copy of a man who had just died. Seeing the clone of his dead friend was hard on him.

Back to Morgan....

She's featured on the website of the Australian Art Print Network.

The website says, Encouraged by her family, she drew voraciously as a child. However, her high school art teachers did not understand her art and criticised her bright, unconventional style.

This was in her book, probably. I might have forgotten about it. Anyway. It's sad. I think it's very unfortunate when people discourage the art of other people. What it comes down to is people not understanding the difference between fact and opinion. Some people think that if they don't like something, it must mean it's bad.

There's such a difference between saying I personally don't like this, and saying This here is total crap.

I don't personally like the book I'm currently reading. To me, it IS crap. But I recognize the fact that other people love the book.

The website says that the negativity discouraged Morgan. She abandoned her art. I'm realizing I did the same thing. I was so excited about my novel a few years ago. I worked very hard on it. I loved it. I was proud of it. But then no agent wanted to look at it. Plus, I got two or three negative reviews from other writers. I think that added together made me very discouraged. I decided the book was probably crap, and I put it away. Of course, I ignored and discounted all the positive feedback I had gotten from other people regarding the book.

In my case, I don't really blame the critics. I think they were polite about it. They weren't the kind of critics that had the attitude of my opinion is gospel. If I don't like your book. It's crap. They were decent reviewers. It's just added together.....

Well, I have a tendency to emphasis the negative, and forget the positive.

I don't have enough faith in myself. I'm not sure how to change that, but I'm trying.

This page of the website has copies of Morgan's work. I like it. I like the colors. Some of it kind of looks Jewish to me. It reminds me of stuff you'd find in a synagogue.

This one looks especially Jewish to me. I'm not sure why.

This website has an interview with Morgan from 1999. It looks like a German website. Yeah. I think it is. But fortunately, the interview is in English. The rest of the website looks German.

Morgan is referred to as a professor. I've seen this on other sites, but failed to mention it. I'm not sure if she's still a professor today.

Well, the University of Western Australia has a page on her within their graduate research program. Maybe that's where she works now?

Morgan usually shuns interviews. It seems she has some shyness. The book brought Morgan and her family quite a lot of fame. It was somewhat challenging for them to deal with it. I can imagine.

Well, this is cool. The interview gives some updates. Morgan stopped being Christian, and embraced Aboriginal spirituality. I don't really remember her being Christian in the book.

Maybe I need to reread the book someday. I've probably forgotten way too much.

Morgan's marriage ended.

Her three kids grew up.

The interview talks about the white man who'd likely be Morgan's great-grandfather. This was Alfred Howden Drake-Brockman. It was his descendant that wrote the book Wongi Wongi. Judith Drake-Brockman denies that Mr. Brockman was the father of Morgan's grandfather.

Morgan's mother said in a documentary, They say he wasn't, because white people didn't sleep with black women. I don't know where the half-castes came from, but that's their argument.

It's hard for people to face the past, especially when they're accused of doing something that they feel is wrong.

Morgan is asked if people can't handle the pain of the past. Will people get tired of hearing stories from the stolen-generations? Morgan says some people are already tired of it. But she feels there needs to be MORE stories...not less. She says, The reason people are sick of it is because it's all come in a rush. Why we need all those stories to continue is that in 50 years' time, that rush of material won't have been enough. Further down the track, it'll be appreciated.
Maybe. I think it's probably more about people not wanting to face the dark aspects of the past than it is about too much of something at once. Although I'm sure Morgan's idea has some merit.

Morgan talks about reconciliation. This interview happened years before Rudd's formal apology. Still, at this time, some regret was being expressed by the government regarding stuff that had happened. Morgan is asked how this expression of regret would have felt to her grandmother. Morgan says, For my grandmother, it would be a meaningless gesture because the loss was too great.

You know....that's something I haven't thought of much before. Not every Aboriginal Australian has personally been effected by the whole stolen-generation thing. Just like every Jew has not personally been effected by the Holocaust. I didn't lose any close family members. We lost some distant relatives, but I didn't lose any of my direct lineage. The sorrow I have felt about it is SOMEWHAT personal because I'm Jewish and my family is Jewish. But it's also pretty removed...distant. I feel it's easy for me to be forgiving about all of it, but maybe that's because it hasn't had a direct effect on me.

If someone has directly been injured by atrocity, it's probably much harder to forgive and move on.

And the story of Morgan's grandmother is so horribly tragic. In the book, there's talk of her losing one child. Losing one child is terrible in itself. But it was later discovered that she lost six children. Six of her children were taken away. How does one survive that?

As a mother, it makes me sick to imagine it.

Actually, losing one child makes me sick enough.

I wish people like Morgan's grandma could be forgiving. It would make world peace and reconciliation seem more likely. But I can't at all blame them if they refuse to forgive. Plus, so many people feel they don't NEED forgiveness. I think it's impossible to forgive people when they don't even feel sorry about it. Well, for SOME people it is possible. I guess they're bigger people than me. I should say I PERSONALLY can't forgive people who don't give a genuine apology.

Anyway, I'm going to quit now. I really feel I can't do justice to Morgan's book. This post is pretty much crap. Well, at least in MY opinion.

And in my opinion, those of you reading this would be better off reading Morgan's book. So I highly suggest you go and do that!

I apologize if I sound too bossy.


  1. We studied that book at high school. Was very much an eye opener for me. It's the part of Australian history we prefer not to dwell on. Mind you, lots of people did good by the indigenous as well - it wasn't all bad.

  2. Lightening,

    Yeah. I know a lot of people prefer to avoid the negative stuff. It's probably part of human nature.

    It does help to remember there was good along with the bad.

    Are you home now??

  3. I remember the Drake-Brockman family, on national television, offering Sally Morgan DNA testing to settle her claim of a link to Howden Drake-Brock. She refused to do it. The Drake-Brockman family offer of DNA testing stands to this day. Meanwhile, Sally Morgan continues to side step the question. I wonder why?
    I also seem to remember the book, "My Place", is listed and catalogued as a work of fiction. That's what it is. It's Sally Morgan's personal dream time. It's stature as an historical document can only be attributed to dishonest publicity, and less than professional teaching and research standards in Australia's education system.

  4. I remember the Drake-Brockman family, on national television, offering Sally Morgan DNA testing to settle her claim of a link to Howden Drake-Brockman. She refused to do it. The Drake-Brockman family offer of DNA testing stands to this day. Meanwhile, Sally Morgan continues to side step the question. I wonder why?
    I also seem to remember the book, "My Place", is listed and catalogued as a work of fiction. That's what it is. It's Sally Morgan's personal dream time. It's stature as an historical document can only be attributed to dishonest publicity, and less than professional teaching and research standards in Australia's education system.