Blossom in the Dust by Anna Birch

Blossom in the Dust by Anna Birch

Another of the books I bought at Book Fair Australia. I’ll get through them at some point. I certainly chose an eclectic bunch of books. This one is non-fiction. A memoir talking to us about the author’s life. It has both good and bad points.

It is well written. We are told quite categorically that children have little agency and don’t know how to say ‘no’. It’s a good lesson for people who believe all you have to do to stay safe is to say ‘no’. We’re told how the abuse was introduced to her as a child and how hard it was to get away. We’re given many instances of this throughout her childhood, with both her mother and her uncle. And we see how this follows through into school and into adult life.

At some stage Birch seems to have a breakthrough. Probably around the age of 13 or 14. We see a couple of incidents when she’s not doing what she’s been asked. But around the same time she discovered that hurting people is powerful. But she also discovered how to stop her mother’s violence. These years were big for her.

At some stage she did turn herself around. It would have been a hard slog and despite the detail I couldn’t see much of what she did. Yes, she was in the Police and that would have helped. There are times when she’s got some experience at being an adult and decides she’s going to change. We don’t see the change in mindset and how she managed that. We see the decision and the changes afterwards, but not how she managed those massive changes in her brain to become a better person, one who knows how to say ‘no’ and one who is a better parent than her mother. I felt that was a big hole in the book.

There are little moments where I’m taken back to my teenage years. Birch was a Bay City Rollers fan, as was I. She and her friends played their tapes of the Rollers music so many times, and knew the words to the songs. I never had a Rollers tape, but I did like their style. So when Birch was able to attend a Bay City Rollers concert as a 17-year-old, I was paying careful attention, I would love to go back in time and attend that concert.

I learned a new word with this book. Petechiae. It’s a rash, in this case caused because Birch’s Mum beat her with the cord to the electric jug. I never said it was a good word, nor did I say this was an easy book to read.

One thing this highlights is how the system really didn’t care about abuse. They focussed on if there was food in the cupboard and a clean house. They didn’t bother asking any questions to find out the real story. There were many people who got away with domestic violence because the authorities didn’t investigate it. I’ve heard far too many stories about this, things changed as the years went on, but Australia in the 1970s was bad for abused people, whether adults or children.

If you fancy reading a challenging book you can buy it using this link, if you’d just like to click and look at the cover, that is a good thing. I do get excited when I see the number of clicks.

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