Alison Deitz in Sydney on the twelve books that track her life
THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLE PIE
One of my favourite books from my childhood, these are beautifully illustrated adventure stories featuring characters created from the Australian bush, including the Gumnut babies, Mr Kookaburra and the terrifying Banksia men, establishing an enduring mythology of the Australian bush for generations of children otherwise raised on traditional European fairy tales.
Louise May Alcott
As an idealistic girl growing up, I dreamed of becoming a writer and Jo March from Little Women
was one of my earliest inspirations. Jo is an independent young woman who refuses to conform to the binding social constraints on women in Civil War era US and eventually achieves her dream of gaining literary success.
Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey
An Australian cult classic for teenagers depicting life for the young in the beachside culture which existed in Sydney in the 1970s, featuring surf, sand and the adolescent exploration of alcohol, sex and drugs. As impressionistic teens, my friends and I devoured this book in our bedrooms with the door firmly shut!
I first became transfixed by the power of Voss
when I was studying English at university. Voss
is based on the failed expedition into the Australian interior by a German explorer who eventually perishes. The author uses his journey as a vehicle to explore the tension between collective order and individual will.
THE FIRST STONE
This is a controversial book about a sex scandal in a university residential college in Australia. It explores themes of sexism, masculinity, and gender wars that struck a chord with me from my own experiences at university. Decades on, the #MeToo movement has forced a light to be shone on this ‘old boys’ culture that still exists today.
HOUSE OF SPIRITS
This is an enchanting book that chronicles the lives of a family in Latin America interwoven with magical realism. I was entranced by this book whilst trekking through the Andes in my youth, experiencing first-hand the fusion of spirituality and colour in Latin American culture.
THE KELLY GANG
This book is loosely based on Australia’s most infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, a colonial version of Robin Hood. To his pursuers he is a murderer but to his people he is a hero. As a student of history, the legend of Ned Kelly came alive for me, cleverly written as his own narrative, scribbled in semi-literate but descriptive prose.
My mother, who recently passed away, gave me this book many years ago. It follows the story of three generations of remarkable women and their practical adaptations to the shifting winds of political power in last-century China which enabled them to change their individual destinies and those of their children.
THE BEAUTY MYTH
This book redefined many women’s views, including my own, of the relationship between beauty and female identity. For many women of my generation who were attempting to carve out careers in male-dominated environments it was the Female Eunuch
of its time.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
J.K. Rowling created not only a magical storyline in the Harry Potter series but also a generation of children obsessed with the plight of Harry, Hermione, Ron et al. On the journey to school each day, my daughter and I listened to the mellifluous voice of Stephen Fry narrating all 103 Harry Potter audio books. My favourite in the series is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
, which shifts the tone as Harry starts his descent into the dark corners of the wizarding world.
This book is about racism against an indigenous boy who is marginalised in the Australian rural community in which he lives and is accused of a murder he did not commit. Given the shocking racial tensions which have exploded across the world in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the harrowing themes explored in this book continue to resonate.
THE WIFE DROUGHT
Women comprise over sixty per cent of university graduates, yet at the apex women are still noticeably absent, holding only around ten per cent of executive positions. The corporate glass ceiling is yet to be shattered, but the author of this book, a noted political journalist, explores the challenges of not what takes place within our offices but what happens outside, replete with comedic anecdotes.
Alison Deitz is the managing partner of the Australia practice. First published in RE: issue 17 (2020)