Winner of the Vic Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing. The story of an urban-based high achieving Aboriginal woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia.
I'm Aboriginal. I'm just not the Aboriginal person a lot of people want or expect me to be.
What does it mean to be Aboriginal? Why is Australia so obsessed with notions of identity? Anita Heiss, successful author and passionate campaigner for Aboriginal literacy, was born a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, but was raised in the suburbs of Sydney and educated at the local Catholic school. She is Aboriginal - however, this does not mean she likes to go barefoot and, please, don't ask her to camp in the desert.
After years of stereotyping Aboriginal Australians as either settlement dwellers or rioters in Redfern, the Australian media have discovered a new crime to charge them with: being too 'fair-skinned' to be an Australian Aboriginal. Such accusations led to Anita's involvement in one of the most important and sensational Australian legal decisions of the 21st-century when she joined others in charging a newspaper columnist with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. He was found guilty, and the repercussions continue.
In this deeply personal memoir, told in her distinctive, wry style, Anita Heiss gives a first-hand account of her experiences as a woman with an Aboriginal mother and Austrian father, and explains the development of her activist consciousness.
Read her story and ask: what does it take for someone to be black enough for you?
“Am I Black Enough For You? is a vibrant, upbeat, restless and often driven account of what it means for at least one person to enjoy life as an indigenous writer.”
Michael McGirr, The Sydney Morning Herald
“One of the fundamentals about books is how they allow us to see through another’s eyes. In this part memoir, part polemic, part primer on Indigenous Australia, Anita Heiss gives a sharp, funny, moving account of what it’s like to be an educated, urban Aboriginal woman with an Austrian father, and the freight of expectations that come with that. One striking aspect of the book is Heiss’s lack of anger. This is a woman more concerned to educate than to rage, more interested in building bridges than burning them. Throughout she is grateful for the opportunities she has had and the support she has received from her family and others. She shows through her own experiences the strength of the Aboriginal community – from the encouragement she received when she was studying at university, to the teaching and mentoring she has done in turn with young Indigenous students.”
Linda Funnell, The Newtown Review of Books
“With wisdom, wit and fierce intelligence, Anita Heiss has written a brilliant memoir about what it means to be a black Australian woman in the 21st century. Part family history, part manifesto, this is feisty stuff: brassy, razor sharp and utterly readable.”
“There are many reasons to like the writing of Anita Heiss. She’s funny in a dry, laconic way, she’s a straight talker – there are no frills here – and she’s passionate about her topic of racial relationships. Dr Heiss’s book is a personal account of being herself in a country that seems obsessed with stereotyping. Heiss’ book is informative, personal and accessible. It serves well as a myth-breaker and also a style of political memoir. Every high school in Australia should be ensuring this book is on its curriculum.”
Chris Gordon, Readings
“Anita Heiss is a star - she has that degree of brightness, being transparently honest in both thought and emotion. Anyone struggling with the issue of identity can learn from her; so can our nation.”
“Anita Heiss is undeniably Australia's most prolific Aboriginal writer.In a heart rendering story she describes her journey through the trials and tribulations that only life can bring. Her sense of belonging and love for family and community provide the centrepiece to her successful career in the arts and politics. Heiss' writing and life brand of passion, integrity and humour provide the focus which transcends the often serious educational component of her work. Her books are indeed gifts to all who read them. Anita Heiss you sure are Black Enough For Me.”
Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA
“Anita has artfully woven her personal and family history with recent events questioning the validity of that history with an honesty and bravery worth honouring. Resilience and wit have become the inherent trademarks of Anita's unique style and this book, in many ways, serves as a 'how-to' survival guide for a new generation of Aboriginal thinkers and actors. Black enough? Bloody oath!”
Jason Glanville, The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
“In Am I Black Enough For You? Heiss has written an account of a life well-lived but also a life deeply endeared to two very different parts of the world, on polar opposite sides of the planet. Regarding her Aboriginal roots and the future of her people, she speaks with passion, conviction and ... balls. Yes, to the general populace, Anita Heiss may appear ballsy and highly opinionated, but there's no denying the fact that this is a woman whose chest contains an enormouse heart. The greatest social and political changes ever made have been by the voices of the outwardly strong but open of heart.”
Tania McCartney, Australian Women Online
“Passionate, personal, informative and funny...Her memoir gives a fresh perspective on historical events and culture.”
Lizzie Stafford, Sunday Mail, Brisbane
“...Well written and researched, meticulously referenced, critical without resorting to insult, humourous without being snide, positive and honest. Memoir can be tricky, but Heiss nails it...”
Rudi Maxwell, Koori Mail, Lismore
Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
Winner • 2012 • Victorian Premier's Literary Awards (Indigenous Category)