By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Australian Made: A Multicultural Reader
Edited by Sonia Mycak and Amit Sarwal (Sydney University Press, $40.00, softcover, 338 pages)
The term Australian Made, at first, may evoke certain associations of a label that often refers to goods and services in an attempt to define its origins.
Co-editor Amit Sarwal makes an interesting case with appropriate analogies. The connotations of the title arising out of a product found on a supermarket shelf were not lost when it came to choosing the title.
Some implications were fruitful: the text as a commodity which is distributed and consumed; the text as a product of institutional forces as well as individual agencies.
“Contestations also exist when labelling a text as ‘Australian Literature’ - was it written, published, distributed, received in Australia? Did any of these processes occur overseas? To what extent do international influences create any Australian literary text?”
The many voices in this collection of essays are engaged in the same important enterprise: to shed light on the writers, the readers and the texts of multicultural Australia.
It is rightly claimed that it’s not possible to have a single, all-encompassing way to understand this literary field due to the complexity and multi-faceted nature of culturally and linguistically diverse writing in Australia.
However, a collection like this with work of critics and scholars from both Australia and abroad opens another door for a debate that’s imperative, bringing with it as many voices and types of analysis as possible.
The opening essay by Alison Bartlett discusses Neem Dreams, a novel by Inez Baranay published in India, which is “acutely aware of the cultural politics of representation”. In another, Debra Dudekis is motivated by a strong belief that multiculturalism can and should be more proactive against racism.
This collection creates a “synergy between local and international perspectives” while exploring what it means for a writer or reader to be ‘Australian’ and a text to be ‘Australian Made’.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.