1st Edition

Reckoning with the Past Family Historiographies in Postcolonial Australian Literature

By Ashley Barnwell, Joseph Cummins Copyright 2019
    140 Pages
    by Routledge

    140 Pages
    by Routledge

    This is the first book to examine how Australian fiction writers draw on family histories to reckon with the nation’s colonial past. Located at the intersection of literature, history, and sociology, it explores the relationships between family storytelling, memory, and postcolonial identity. With attention to the political potential of family histories, Reckoning with the Past argues that authors’ often autobiographical works enable us to uncover, confront, and revise national mythologies. An important contribution to the emerging global conversation about multidirectional memory and the need to attend to the effects of colonisation, this book will appeal to an interdisciplinary field of scholarly readers.


    1. Dredging Up Family Secrets – Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide

    2. Confronting the ‘Double Fold of Silence’ – Kim Scott and Hazel Brown’s Kayang & Me and Sally Morgan’s My Place

    3. Belonging Across Generations – Brian Castro’s Birds of Passage and Shanghai Nights, and Alex Miller’s The Ancestor Game

    4. Returning to Homelands – Christos Tsiolkas’ Dead Europe and Christopher Koch’s The Many-Coloured Land: A Return to Ireland

    5. Listening to the Ghosts of the Past – Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth




    Ashley Barnwell is Ashworth Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

    Joseph Cummins has a PhD in Literary Studies from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and serves on the board of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.