Title: Born Into This
Author: Adam Thompson
Genre: Literary Fiction; Short story collection
Publisher: UQP

Adam Thompson’s debut book Born Into This is a thought-provoking short story collection filled with a mixture of charming, stand-out characters. Set in different parts of Tasmania and the surrounding islands, each story beautifully encapsulates the land and the sea. Readers will be drawn in by Thompson’s short stories that pack a punch with every word.

Born Into This includes a range of stories that highlight the racism and oppression that many different First Nations people face in our current day, while also making the reader pause and think about the reality of these fictional stories. Such a story would be ‘The Blackfellas From Here’ which sees a rich, affluent white man named James Clifford proudly displaying a plaque on his house that acknowledges he has built on Aboriginal land. Kat, a young First Nations woman, seeks to get James to put his money where his mouth is and sign over his house to the Aboriginal community of Tasmania:

What this comes down to is that if this house stands on Aboriginal land – and it was wrongly taken, as you say – then here is your chance. You get to right the wrongs you speak of, and give your house and land back to us: the blackfellas from here.

Each story, just like ‘The Blackfellas From Here’, is sharp and witty and very successfully presents large social questions in small packages. Thompson is not delivering a book which is palatable and comforting. Rather, he is ensuring that each reader is left with an opportunity to challenge their own conceptions of First Nations writing.

The stand-out for me is the complex assortment of characters. Each character is so different from the last and all are remarkable—they are going to be sticking around in my mind for a while. Each of them have different beliefs and different morals. They are all uniquely their own rather than cookie-cutter replicas placed into different plots. Some characters, like Dorothy, are goody-two-shoes, and others, like Ben, have questionable morals. Readers will be kept on their toes throughout the whole collection. I also found it refreshing to see characters who don’t obviously reflect the beliefs of the author. I have no idea whether Thompson sees a little bit of himself in all of the characters or doesn’t relate to any of them—and I enjoy that. Readers will meet them all and take a liking to some, but all of them will leave a mark on you by the time the book is finished.

I encourage people who love well developed characters to give Born Into This a go—readers won’t be disappointed. It is a stunning collection from a talented and compelling debut author. Thompson has given Australia a new voice to listen to and learn from in 2021.

Underground Team

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