NERAM Book Club 2: Taboo by Kim Scott

New England Regional Art Museum’s powerful exhibition Myall Creek and Beyond invited Aboriginal Australian contemporary artists Robert Andrew, Fiona Foley, Laurie Nielsen and Judy Watsonto respond to the history and significance of the Myall Creek Massacre. The exhibition was curated by leading Indigenous curator Bianca Beetson. In conjunction with this exhibition, the book club read Taboo by Kim Scott (Pan McMillian, 2017).

The discussion loosely flowed around the following questions:

Taboo was recently shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, an award given to a book of the ‘highest literary merit’ than shows ‘Australian life in any of its many phases.’ Do you think the novel deserves to be shortlisted? Why or why not?

How does the past have an impact on the characters in the novel?

Taboo raises questions about whether, given Australia’s violent past and ongoing intergenerational trauma, reconciliation is possible. What are some of the barriers to reconciliation for the characters in the novel? How does the novel suggest they might be overcome?

What are the similarities between the fictional massacre depicted in Taboo and what you know about Myall Creek? Can parallels be drawn?

The novel opens with the surreal image of a figure emerging from spilled wheat, and ends with the same image. By the end, the reader has learnt the figure is Wilfred’s creation. Why do you think Scott chooses to begin and end the book in this way?

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