My Father’s Shadow: Jannali Jones on the importance of telling Indigenous stories

by |August 22, 2019
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Jannali Jones is an Aboriginal woman and the debut author of My Father’s Shadow, a young adult thriller about a teenage girl on the run from her father’s criminal past.

Today, she’s on the blog to talk about the importance of Indigenous storytelling in keeping Australia’s rich Aboriginal cultures alive – scroll down!


2019 is the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, and there’s no better time to read Australian Indigenous literature.

Indigenous literature in Australia offers a growing body of work, and with Indigenous author Melissa Lucaschenko having recently won the Miles Franklin award, following in the footsteps of Kim Scott and Alexis Wright, the quality of literature is demonstrably high.

My Father's Shadow - Jannali Jones

Jannali Jones

Indigenous writers have penned works across many genres including historical fiction (Terri Janke, Larissa Behrendt), fantasy (Teagan Chilcott), thrillers (Kim Scott), chick-lit (Anita Heiss) and even graphic novels (Brenton E. McKenna). With such varied works on offer, there’s an opportunity for all Australians to experience a continued tradition of storytelling that is so central to Aboriginal culture.

When I wrote My Father’s Shadow, I felt fortunate to be able to write a work of fiction that, in many ways, reflected who I am as an Aboriginal woman through the protagonist, Kaya. Many people think of the Aboriginal people of Australia as living somewhere ‘in the outback’, sitting on the ground around a fire, or worse. In reality, and in contrast to this stereotype, most Aboriginal people in Australia live on the east coast of Australia, in major cities. Western Sydney has the highest concentration of Indigenous people in Australia. This is where Kaya’s home is, and throughout the book we come to realise there’s been a fragmentation of culture caused by a rift in her family. Whether by circumstance or geography, this is a common theme of Aboriginal people today, exacerbated by external influences in many cases.

I wanted to write a book that was subtle in the way it explored cultural identity, so that the mystery and thriller elements of the book were at the forefront. Kaya, on the run from a drug cartel who has murdered her father, has plenty of other things on her mind. However, the audience still gains understanding of her culture without this being the main point of the book. These different forms of cultural representation are so important, not just for those who find themselves reflected in the characters, but for others to appreciate the mosaic of Indigenous Australian cultural experience.

In the same way that not all Muslim women wear a hijab, not all Jewish people attend temple every week, and not all children of immigrants speak their parents’ native tongue, the cultural identity of Aboriginal people is varied but no less valid than those who fall neatly within mainstream stereotypes. Through reading Indigenous Australian literature we can see varying representations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia, begin to understand their experience of the past and present, and embrace these stories as essential to the fabric of Australian society and literature.


My Father’s Shadow is out now – order your copy here.

My Father's Shadowby Jannali Jones

My Father's Shadow

by Jannali Jones

Kaya is completing her Higher School Certificate when she is woken in the middle of the night by her mother. They are to pack immediately and go to their holiday home in the Blue Mountains. Her father is 'not coming back'. He has been involved in a court case to give evidence against some dangerous criminals.

Months later, they are still in hiding and the mysteries are multiplying. Kaya is not sure who to trust: her mother's new friend, the policeman or her new friend, Eric, from the local store...

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