Book Review: BECOMING KIRRALI LEWIS by Jane Harrison
Reviewed by student: Charlotte Kowald
‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’ is a novel by Jane Harrison. Beginning in 1985, the story is centred around Kirrali Lewis – a young Aboriginal girl about to start university in Melbourne. She had almost always known what she would like to do: corporate law, and she was determined to get there. In Kirrali’s home town she had grown used to being seen as different, having been adopted into a loving white family when she was very young. University though, was not entirely what Kirrali expected. Suddenly, she was being treated differently just because of the colour of her skin. Racism was now a part of her everyday life, and for the first time Kirrali decided that she wanted to investigate into her culture. So, with the encouragement of her adoptive parents, she decided that she would begin the search for her birth family – a decision that would take Kirrali places completely different to anywhere she ever imagined.
The books is split also with Kirrali’s birth mother, using flashback chapters set in the 1960’s to tell the story of her parents and their role in the push for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights.
I loved the character of Kirrali and found her very interesting. She began the book extremely naive, but that did not prevent her from also being seen as ambitious and strong. Throughout the book, her character developed lots as she experienced more and began to figure out what she truly believed in. It was also a nice change to read a book that is in a familiar setting, something I find isn’t all that common here in Australia. The only real problem that I picked up in this book is that I didn’t learn that much about the characters aside from what was in the dialogue. At times the amount of dialogue did cause the story to jump around a little bit, occasionally making it difficult to follow. Once I got further into the book, this did not seem to bother me as much.
While being based around important and serious topics ‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’ is still quite a lighthearted book. It is a quick read that is very difficult to put down. Mostly, though, it is an excellent coming of age novel based around two incredible people trying very hard to bring about change in Australia.