Hello! Sorry it’s been a while (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). I’ve been overseas, on a beach, in Hawaii, which conveniently means I have a tonne of book reviews to get through – and that I hope you get to read through.
For Christmas, I was given a copy of A Country Too Far, a collection of short stories, essays and poems by a number of well-known and highly respected Australian authors. Though the list is too extensive to show here, it was edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally, who not only were the driving force behind the book, but also contributed to it themselves.
So what is it about? In short, A Country Too Far, is about asylum seekers. Whether that’s a short fictional story about a harrowing boat trip across to Australia, or a horrific, yet 100% true story of an asylum seeker and people smuggler, or a poem that identifies the inner turmoil that so many Australians are currently feeling about our country’s government, A Country Too Far shows the perspective of what it is like to be an asylum seeker today in Australia.
And sadly, it’s not pretty.
For those readers who aren’t Australian, while I am ashamed to admit it, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers has not only been callous, it has also been legitimately called inhumane by the UN. On multiple occasions. Families that have been ripped apart from one another. Mass riots, including a death, in refugee camps. And a horrifyingly high number of children who are kept behind wire fences solely because they were not born in Australia.
Though the mistreatment of another human being, let alone thousands of them, seems abhorrent to most, unfortunately the fear, propaganda and covering up of the truth has allowed Australia to become a state that is mistrustful, hateful and cruel. Which is where A Country Too Far comes in.
Though it may seem simple, and perhaps it is too hopeful an idea, the writers have come together to create a series of pieces that provide asylum seekers with a voice, to fight back at the untrue representation that they face in the media. While some stories are more emotional than others, and some are bare, cold facts that shame-face Australia (particularly the comparison with the treatment of Jewish people in WW2 and asylum seekers in Australia today), each resonate a very clear point: asylum seekers are human beings, just like you or I, and no person should be mistreated simply for coming from a different country.
Who knows if A Country Too Far will have any success of changing the perspective of the Australian public? Unfortunately, those who are likely to pick up this book are also probably already emphatic towards asylum seekers. Regardless, A Country Too Far is an amazing achievement, a series of well-written pieces from well-known authors, and whether it has an effect today, or in 50 years, or never, it is still a book that I would highly recommend picking up.
Have you read A Country Too Far? What is your position on asylum seekers? Do you think it will make a positive difference? Let me know!