> Skip to content

A heartbreaking, darkly funny and deeply moving moving memoir from a fearlessly talented writer

A heartbreaking, darkly funny and deeply moving memoir from a fearlessly talented writer

Delivered on the banks of the Mainoru River by her two full-blood grandmothers, Marie Munkara was born with light skin which meant one thing - it would only be a matter of time before she would be taken by the authorities and given to a white family to be raised.

Then twenty-eight years later an old baptismal card falling out of a book changed the course of her life forever. It was a link to her past.

Knowing that she had to follow her heart or forever live to regret it Marie set out to find the family that she had lost, leaving her strict white Catholic parents aghast - why dig up the past?

With devastating honesty, humour and courage, the award-winning author of Every Secret Thing shares her extraordinary journey of discovery to find her origins.


Munkara's writing is distinguished by its humour and vivid descriptions of raucous family fun. She laughs at herself as well as the antics of her own mob. But underpinning the laughter are acute political statements about the poverty of her people.

Diane Dempsey, The Age

Munkara employs her trademark humour and observational wit ... must-read memoir ... deeply moving account of Marie's search to find her lost family after 25 years will tug at the heartstrings.

Woman's Day

In Australian memoir, Marie Munkara’s Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea is that funny-sad hybrid that makes your heart sing and hurt at the same time.

Maxine Beneba Clarke, The Guardian

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea is a candid, unflinching and moving story about reaching back into the past to find family and identity. A survivor of the Stolen Generations, taken from her Indigenous mother as a child and subjected to sexual and emotional abuse by her adoptive family, Marie Munkara was unaware of her Indigenous roots until she turned 28 and a baptismal card accidentally fell out of a book in her adoptive mother's house. This led to a heart-wrenching yet joyful journey to her mother in the Tiwi Islands and then to Arnhem Land where she was born. Munkara tells the story with disarming honesty, presenting her Indigenous communities in all their complexity by refusing to leave out unflattering observations just as she includes the uproarious moments of camaraderie, flirting, marital disagreements and mishaps while hunting. At the heart of the book is a daughter's evolving relationship with a mother she never knew, as she comes to understand the ancient wisdom of this very flawed but loving parent. This memoir about searching for what makes us whole - and learning to let go - offers a poignant and often hilarious account of recent Australian history from a rare perspective.

NSW Premier's Literary Awards, Judges

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    May 2, 2016

    Vintage Australia

    288 pages

    RRP $34.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    May 2, 2016

    Random House Australia

    288 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Book Clubs
Of Ashes Reading Notes

Book club discussion notes for this deeply moving memoir. 

Also by Marie Munkara

Every Secret Thing


The Princess Diarist
Talking As Fast As I Can
Finding My Virginity
Bon: The Last Highway
Lean In
The Boy Behind the Curtain
The House on the Hill
When Breath Becomes Air
In Order To Live
The Choice
Lion: A Long Way Home
Secrets for the Mad
You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody)
Young Hitler
The First Casualty
Rising Strong