Dirt Poor Islanders - Winnie Dunn

Dirt Poor Islanders

By: Winnie Dunn

Paperback | 27 March 2024 | Edition Number 1

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'Islanders must do everything together. We painted ngatu together. We crossed the ocean together. We settled on isles together. We took up Christianity together. We entered into new citizenships together. We became wage workers together. We lived with generations upon generations stacked in fibro houses together. We became half-White together. We got nits together. We sooked together. We stayed poor together. Together. Together. Together.'

Meadow Reed used to get confused when explaining that she had grandparents from Australia, Tonga and Great Britain. She'd say she was full-White and full-Tongan, thinking that so many halves made separate wholes. Despite the Anglo-Saxon genetics that gave Meadow a narrow nose and light-brown skin, everybody who raised her was Tongan. Everybody who loved her was Tongan. This was what made her Tongan.

Growing up in the heat-hummed streets of Mt Druitt in Western Sydney, Meadow will face palangis who think they are better than Fobs, women who fall into other women, what it means to have many mothers, a playful rain and even Pineapple Fanta.

For this half-White, half-Tongan girl, the world is bigger than the togetherness she has grown up in. Finding her way means pushing against the constraints of tradition, family and self until she becomes whole in her own right. Meadow is going to see that being a dirt poor Islander girl is more beautiful than she can even begin to imagine.

Dirt Poor Islanders is a potent, mesmerising novel that opens our eyes to the brutal fractures navigated when growing up between two cultures and the importance of understanding all the many pieces of yourself.

About the Author

Winnie Dunn is a writer, editor and the general manager of Sweatshop Literacy Movement. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Sydney University and was a finalist for the university's Breakthrough Alumni Award. Winnie's articles, essays, poems and short stories have appeared in Meanjin, Griffith Review, The Guardian and Sydney Review of Books. Her critically acclaimed curated works include: Sweatshop Women (Sweatshop, 2018 and 2019), Another Australia (Affirm Press, 2022) and Straight Up Islander (SBS Voices, 2021) - Australia's first collection of mainstream Pasifika-Australian stories. Winnie's writing has been assisted by the Copyright Agency and the Australia Council for the Arts. Dirt Poor Islanders is her debut work of fiction.
Industry Reviews
'a loving, yet challenging, portrait of the Tongan-Australian community . . . this is truly groundbreaking fiction' - MELISSA LUCASHENKO, Miles Franklin winning author of Too Much Lip

'ferocious and tender . . . no one is spared and so much is revealed, including the complexity and power of being Tongan.' - SHANKARI CHANDRAN, Miles Franklin winning author of Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens

'A fresh and vital new voice. The language dances on the page and creates vibrant characters alive and dripping with life.' - FAVEL PARRETT, Miles Franklin shortlisted author of Past the Shallows

'I couldn't put it down. I laughed and I cried and I could smell the food and picture the places. Groundbreaking. Powerful. Brilliant. Masterpiece.' - SELA AHOSIVI-ATIOLA

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