Title: Flock: First Nations Stories Then and Now
Editor: Ellen van Neerven
Genre: Short Story Anthology
Published: May 2021
Trigger warning: mention of a stillborn birth
Flock: First Nations Stories Then and Now edited by the highly commended and awarded poet and author Ellen van Neerven is easily one of my favourite anthologies ever and probably the best book I have and will read this year. Not only is Flock visually beautiful, with its stunning cover by Luritja woman Kukula Mcdonald and bright orange inside covers, it’s a stunning collection of First Nations short stories that will nestle into your heart. Ellen van Neerven has expertly curated stories from 20 First Nations authors from the past 25 years, each story sharing the history and experiences of First Nations peoples living in colonised Australia.
Each of these short stories is poignant in its narrative and honest in its interrogation of colonised Australia. In ‘Honey’ by Adam Thompson, Aboriginal man Nathan is being racially tormented by his conceited employer, Sharkey. Thompson’s narrative explores racism perpetrated by white people and the blatant and careless destruction of cultural artefacts and land by white Australians. In Alf Taylor’s ‘Wildflower Girl’, Ada’s children Queenie and Jack are playing in a wildflower field when Queenie is stolen away from her family. Cassie Lynch’s ‘Split’ is a story of Perth, Noongar Country, and the history and beauty of the land before invasion. Moreover, Gayle Kennedy’s ‘The Golden Wedding Anniversary’ is an insightful glimpse into mid 20th century segregation and racism and the ongoing effects it has on First Nations families.
This anthology also includes some very beautiful stories, such as Mykaela Saunder’s ‘River Story’, in which Juna gives birth to her baby, Gracey, surrounded by her mother and Aunties on Country. ‘River Story’ is a touching intergenerational story about First Nations women. Another story that touches on childbirth is Jane Harrison’s ‘Born Still’, which is a moving exploration of giving birth to a still-born child that will break your heart but leave you with hope. Overall, van Neerven has chosen stories of resilience and truth that will leave readers feeling confronted and maybe uncomfortable, which is exactly the type of stories that need to be read.
Flock is an amazing collection filled with highly esteemed writers. I am sure that every single story will impact and resonate with readers. If you loved Common People by Tony Birch, Born Into This by Adam Thompson, and Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today curated by Alison Whittaker, you’ll love Flock!