NONA & ME

Nona & Me is my first novel. It was published by Black Inc and released in October 2014. Here is the blurb:

Rosie and Nona are sisters. Yapas. They are also best friends. It doesn’t matter that Rosie is white and Nona is Aboriginal: their family connections tie them together for life. Born just five days apart in a remote corner of the Northern Territory, the girls are inseparable, until Nona moves away at the age of nine. By the time she returns, they’re in Year 10 and things have changed. Rosie has lost interest in the community, preferring to hang out in the nearby mining town, where she goes to school with the glamorous Selena, and Selena’s gorgeous older brother, Nick. When a political announcement highlights divisions between the Aboriginal community and the mining town, Rosie is put in a difficult position: will she be forced to choose between her first love and her oldest friend?

I wrote Nona & Me while living in the remote Aboriginal community of Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem Land, which is also where the novel is set. The inspiration came from three main sources: watching my children play with the kids in our adopted Yolngu family; thinking about the Close the Gap campaign and wondering when the ‘gap’ begins; and seeing two girls – one white, one black – happily swimming together at the pool. If you’ve read the book you might recognise this last experience in one of the chapters.

The novel draws heavily on interviews with people from the communities of Yirrkala and Nhulunbuy. It would have been impossible to write the novel without their generously shared stories. I also worked closely with Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs, an amazing Yolngu woman and teacher, who acted as a cultural advisor throughout the entire process. She was among the first to hear the idea for the novel, and then helped me fill in many blanks along the way, reading both drafts, and providing feedback and information. I can’t thank her enough.

Awards for Nona & Me:

Honour Book, 2015 Childrens Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers

Longlisted, 2015 Inky Awards

Highly commended by the judges of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Writing for Young Adults: “Clare Atkins’ first novel is a fresh exploration of communication and complication between indigenous and non-indigenous young people.”

Praise for Nona & Me:

‘Rosie’s story brims with the joy and pain and complexity of friendship and love at sixteen. I adored this smart, heartfelt book about family, kinship, country, and finding out what really matters.’ – Fiona Wood

‘A fascinating book, beautifully told, with rich insight into a deeply Australian but little known community.’ – Jackie French

‘Nona & Me is one of those wonderful books that takes you deeply into a rarely seen world and brings it vibrantly to life…Clare Atkins writes about a place and a time with love and care, and explores a complicated and fraught situation with honesty and respect.’ – Books + Publishing Magazine

‘Nona & Me is the kind of book you think about for many hours, days, even weeks!, after you put it down.’ – The Little Bookshop

“Highly recommended.” – Readings Monthly

“Clare Atkins’ debut novel is a triumph: a coming-of-age tale that celebrates friendship and loyalty, family and community. Here is a striking new voice in Australian youth literature, and her story is one that will surely leave its mark.” – Danielle Binks, Kill Your Darlings

‘a delicate, quiet tale that you’ll … think about long after the book is finished.’ – Pop.Edit.Lit

deeply moving…Nona And Me is a beautifully affecting story that will make you question what you think you know’ – Crash My Book Party

‘Clare Atkins delivers a polished, unflinching book that deserves to be read’ – the Age/SMH, Spectrum

‘[Clare Atkins] wrestles with some of this country’s most hotly debated political issues with a rare lightness of touch. [Nona & Me is] a convincing portrait of a naive but feverish first love, friendships waxing and waning, and the clash between fitting in and sticking to your values. Above all, there’s a warmth and optimism that’s hard to resist.’ – Daniel Herborn, the Sunday Age

‘A powerful coming-of-age story … Atkins writes with clear-eyed sensitivity, and although I longed to hear Nona’s voice, its absence is deliberate and effective. Nona & Me is poignant young-adult fiction invoking the complex and often overlooked realities of remote indigenous life.’— The AgeSydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times

[Nona & Me] is written in a clear, poetic style that creates a powerful sense of place as the story moves between communities, time and cultures, with a strong narrative pull that increases in tension until the very end.’—ABC Local Radio Central West NSW

‘Atkins writes with clear-eyed sensitivity, and although I longed to hear Nona’s voice, its absence is deliberate and effective. Nona & Me is poignant young-adult fiction invoking the complex and often overlooked realities of remote indigenous life.’—Burnie Advocate

‘This [is a] powerful, beautifully contoured story of cross-cultural friendship.’—Joy Lawn, the Australian

‘In a word, this book is powerful…Highly, highly recommend this one….to everyone.’ – 1Girl2ManyBooks

‘a thought-provoking debut’—the West Australian

‘an unforgettable read’ – Good Reading Magazine

My daughter Rosa fishing with my momo, just after we moved to Yirrkala.