Powerful and Timely: Read Our Review of Memories and Elephants by Meaghan Katrak Harris

Powerful and Timely: Read Our Review of Memories and Elephants by Meaghan Katrak Harris

Memories and Elephants: The art of casual racism is a collection of memoir-based essays set against the sociopolitical background of Australian society.

In these essays, written with clarity and compassion by Meaghan Katrak Harris, you’ll explore the intersectionality of Australian culture, classism, racism and identity as the author has lived it.

Drawing on her experiences of being a teenage mother, a member of a large multicultural family, a social worker and an academic, Harris uses a powerful personal narrative to illuminate often uncomfortable aspects of our society – the elephants in the room that have been historically downplayed and ignored.

Taking you from memories of country life to the city, from the street to national television, Memories and Elephants invites you to think beyond the dominant narrative of Australian identity.

Katrak Harris is a social worker and academic with a long, diverse background in social work, including extensive experience working alongside First Nations Peoples, families and communities. Her book opens with her explaining how a compulsion to write had sideswiped her, and how her head was buzzing with stories she felt compelled to get down. Memories and Elephants is the result of this. It is a slim volume of beautifully written essays about her life, her family and, as the title states, casual racism. It’s uncomfortable reading, but so incredibly worthwhile.

Katrak Harris is white, while her partner and children are Aboriginal. I feel the need to state here that I too am white, while the father of my children is not, and our children are mixed race. I have, to a lesser extent, experienced casual racism: the sly remarks, the expressed disbelief, the backhanded compliments about my choice of partner and my family. Katrak Harris’s experience is mine on steroids, and is the daily lived experience of First Nations people in this country. It’s distressing to read and must be utterly exhausting to live. In fact, the final chapter is about Katrak Harris’ daughter and is titled ‘Sis is Tired’.

The early chapters in Memories and Elephants jump between dates – The Mildura Show, early 1990s, Robinvale 2010s – showing readers that little has changed over the decades, with examples of the casual racism Katrak Harris and her family have always endured.

The latter part of the book contains some difficult reading, including a story about suicide, but Katrak Harris’s lyrical voice guides you through. She’s a beautiful writer – polished and assured.

The title of the book comes from the Creedence Clearwater Revival song Lookin’ Out My Back Door. Katrak Harris has been listening to the song well before the internet existed and she thought ‘tambourines and elephants’ was ‘memories and elephants’. So, as she writes about the elephant in the room, she admits that “Other people will have different memories.” Memories and Elephants is a powerful, important read, one that deserves a place on school curriculums.

Buy a copy of Memories and Elephants here. 

Reviews

Essential Reading: Try a Sample Chapter of Memories and Elephants by Meaghan Katrak Harris

Review | Extract

23 June 2022

Essential Reading: Try a Sample Chapter of Memories and Elephants by Meaghan Katrak Harris

    Publisher details

    Memories and Elephants
    Author
    Meaghan Katrak Harris
    Publisher
    The Kind Press
    Genre
    Non Fiction
    Released
    07 December, 2021
    ISBN
    9780645262612

    Synopsis

    Memories and Elephants: The art of casual racism is a collection of memoir-based essays set against the sociopolitical background of Australian society.

    In these essays-written with clarity and compassion by Meaghan Katrak Harris-you'll explore the intersectionality of Australian culture, classism, racism and identity as the author has lived it.

    Drawing on her experiences of being a teenage mother, a member of a large multicultural family, a social worker, and an academic, Meaghan uses powerful personal narrative to illuminate often uncomfortable aspects of our society-the elephants in the room that have been historically downplayed and ignored.

    Taking you from memories of country life to the city, from the street to national television, Memories and Elephants invites you to think beyond the dominant narrative of Australian identity.

    Meaghan Katrak Harris
    About the author

    Meaghan Katrak Harris

    Books by Meaghan Katrak Harris

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