White Woman Black Heart review by Christian Reader
White Woman Black Heart: Journey Home to Old Mapoon, a Memoir
Age Range - Adult
Genre - Nonfiction

Student Review

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Age at time of review - 23
Reviewer's Location - Yucaipa, CA, United States
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This book follows the Mapoon people who were taken from their land by the Queensland government in Australia to make way for mining propositions. Barbara Miller, volunteering with the International Development Action (IDA), strove to help the Mapoon people get back to their homeland, even after the government had eradicated their homes through fire and other means.  Barbara knew that they would rebuild – she’d known these people for a good portion of her life.

This is the story of how Barbara helped the Mapoon people move back to their homeland, even under extreme government opposition. This is also the story of how she and Jerry Hudson were taken to court for this blatant act against the Queensland government and how Barbara herself was put under house arrest for her so-called "crimes" against the government. A story of both loss and triumph, it follows Barbara and her zeal to see the Mapoon people placed back where they belong: in their homes, from which they were unjustly taken.

 

Opinion: 

While this book reads like a history book at times, it mostly reads like a well-written memoir. The author showed no prowess in using technical terms people wouldn't understand. Instead, she wrote in a way that everyone could comprehend the content. I expected flowery language and a heightened writing style when I started this book, as it was rated "adult," but I was pleasantly surprised that I could follow everything going on with ease. I’ve never been a fan of verbose passages that like to show off to the reader with how much vocabulary is known by the author, so I truly appreciated being able to just read the story and understand it at face value.

This memoir contains real photographs from actual happenings that occurred to the Mapoon people. Just in the first chapter, readers see a map of Australia, a map of Cape York, a picture of Jean Jimmy, and a picture of Jack Callope’s burned house. Those pictures help to not only set the stage for the rest of the book, but also help the readers understand that what they are reading is real and that the events actually happened. Photographs much akin to those were peppered throughout the entire memoir. Having evidence in the form of photographs really helps to remind the readers that this is not some fairy-tale for children; it's true. I loved the pictures in the book and found myself wishing there were more as I read.

I enjoyed the book a lot and thought it was a great historical piece, but I did not like the fact that the book started off with its ending. One of the final scenes of the book is given away in the prologue, and I didn’t appreciate that choice. It left the rest of the book in an interesting place, what with the ending already clearly being seen in the very beginning of the memoir. It was a choice on the author’s part to draw the reader in – to start the book with a “hook.” As I read, the suspense seemed lessened. This was one reason I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars, as everything else with the book was great, but I did not like knowing the ending ahead of time.

Overall, this memoir was an interesting read and very historical as a whole. I’ll gladly add this book to my personal collection, and I will recommend it to my friends who are interested in historical happenings.

Rating:
4
Content Rating:

Content rating - mature content

Explain your content rating: 

Scenes of violence heavily fill this piece, as well as instances of extreme racism and segregation. The opening of the memoir looks closely at an act of terror where people are removed forcibly from their homes and man-handled into moving elsewhere. From that point onward, the memoir doesn’t shy away from difficult situations and topics. Some scenes of police brutality are also seen in this book, as well as looks into police states and extreme government intervention into citizens’ lives. Also, several instances of both negative and positive attributes of politics are heavily seen in this book. Scenes of financial abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, domestic abuse/violence, and physical abuse are common. Sexism is extremely prevalent as we view Barbara’s childhood and coming-to-adulthood, as well as unfair situations thrust upon her, both at school and domestically. Also, both positive and negative religious views and themes are heavily peppered throughout the memoir, as the peoples of Mapoon and Barbara herself have dealt with both good and difficult religious situations. A main part of the book is the Vietnam War and all the arguments for and against it that were prevalent at the time. Other issues mentioned in the book are suicide, homosexual’s rights, women’s rights, gender dysphoria and transsexual individuals, exorcisms, and stances on abortion (both for and against). There are a couple curse words in this book, but the book isn’t littered with them. This memoir is definitely rated “Adult” for a reason. As such, parents/parental guardians, teachers, and/or librarians should definitely look this book over before giving it to a child/student, particularly if the child/student is more sensitive to any of the previously-mentioned materials.

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