This second edition of The Cherry Picker’s Daughter is an exquisite portrait of growing up Aboriginal on the fringes of outback towns in NSW in the mid-twentieth century. Its an important book for school libraries and classrooms, with profound insights into the extraordinary strength, resilience and ingenuity of Aboriginal families to overcome extreme poverty, persecution, racism and cultural genocide.
The strength of family ties in Aboriginal communities is clearly evident when three-month-old Kerry and her brother lost both parents. Her father, Kevin Gilbert––later to become a famous activist and artist––killed their mother and was jailed for many years. Her father’s sister, whom she always called ‘Mummy’, raised Kerry and her brother, along with her own children and others within the extended family. The book is a tribute to this truly remarkable woman, who not only loved them selflessly and worked tirelessly to support them, but also managed to keep them from being taken/‘stolen’ by the ‘Welfare’.
Told in the child’s voice and in the vernacular of her Mob, activist, artist, poet and author, Aunty Kerry, tells her story of love and loss, of dispossession and repeated dislocation growing up in corrugated tin huts, tents and run-down train carriages, of helping her family earn ‘an honest living’ through fruit picking, and the impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of Protection Laws. It is a tribute to the power of family unity to overcome hardship and provide a tower of strength, love and selflessness.
• Teacher’s notes available
Praise for The Cherry Picker’s Daughter
A wonderful yarn by an Aboriginal Elder about a bygone way of life.
––Melissa Lukashenko, award-winning Goorie author
Thank you, Kerry, for sharing your story––so much pain and hurt, but such life-affirming strength and love too.
–– Kate Grenville, award-winning author
Kids bounce into this world with such capacity for hope and love and attachment; how painful it was to read the ways this was betrayed by an Australia that I wish had known better. This memoir felt important in my hands, historical, vital––and joyful. It described a childhood I needed to know, and filled me with deepest admiration and respect. I cried many tears for Kerry Reed-Gilbert and was so grateful for her wonderful Mummy.
–– Sophie Laguna, award-winning author
I keep picking up books by Wild Dingo Press. Their motto is “Books that stand their ground”, and based on their output, I can’t argue with that.
My recent rewarding read is: The Cherry Picker’s Daughter by Kerry Reed-Gilbert
This memoir beautifully captures the life of the marginalised and dispossessed, giving a child’s view of an unfair and violent life. Telling of an extended and blended indigenous family caught in poverty, the narrative is full of uncertainty; fear of the ‘Welfare Man’ (who will take you away), fear of being different, fear of the loss of more relatives to early deaths. Balancing this is the pure wonder of life, and the unbounded love of an innocent child for her mob.
If you were touched by “Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia”, you’ll treasure this book … Everyone should read this, and ponder how we unjustly trap people within our judgements. You may cry though…
–– Robert O’Hearn, Booktopia