NONA & ME

Nona & Me was 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.

My daughter fishing with my momo, not long after we moved to Yirrkala.