Dirt Poor Islanders

Winnie Dunn

Dirt Poor Islanders
Hachette Australia
27 March 2024

Dirt Poor Islanders

Winnie Dunn

'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.

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