WRITTEN as a verse novel, Sally Morgan’s Sister Heart is a poem that reads like a story—and flows like silk.
The Fremantle local wrote it as a children’s book, but its appeal is universal.
It’s the story of a young Aboriginal girl, Annie, taken from her family in the far north-west and sent to a mission, and her friendship with Janey, an indigenous girl from the south-west.
Alone and locked in a cold, stone cell, Annie’s anguish is beautifully rendered in the first pages.
Morning light streaks
through the too-high window
tickles my sore eyes
teases my skin
thud, thud, thud
Big keys jangle
Door gives a rusty warning
Right you – out
small as a spider
press my face to the wall
He yanks me up
like a sack of flour
Morgan’s words are brevity itself, but so poignant I found myself tearing up several times as I read cover to cover in a couple of hours.
Asked what was most difficult to write, the Fremantle local says, “All of it,” adding, “the process of writing the story was a very emotional one for me. I hope I did [it] justice.”
The story came to Morgan in a dream, inspired by the great-grandmother she never met.
“[From] what I know she was a creative person. I’ve always felt a strong spiritual tie to her.
“[She] and my grandmother’s sister helped care for a lot of children.
“I love working with children myself, perhaps why I dreamed the story.”
The stolen generation is now part of Australia’s cultural psyche and, importantly, Sister Heart helps ensure it’s kept to the forefront, says Fremantle Press CEO Jane Fraser.
“[With] a focus on children because they are the next generation.”
Sister Heart was launched at New Edition Bookshop Wednesday, and the West End shop is donating a percentage of sales to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, of which Morgan is an ambassador. The ILF puts literacy resources into Aboriginal communities.
Sister Heart can be found at all good book stores.