Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Interviews

Boy, Lost and The Stella Prize: An Interview With Kristina Olsson

by Veronica Sullivan , April 25, 20141 Comment

Olsson-Kristina-Writers-LGE 

Kristina Olsson’s Boy, Lost details the story of her half-brother, Peter, who was taken from their mother’s arms in infancy and not reunited with his maternal family for decades. Boy, Lost has been shortlisted for the 2014 Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing. Olsson spoke with KYD‘s Veronica Sullivan about Boy, Lost, writing through trauma, and why The Stella Prize is unique. 

In Boy, Lost you share your family’s story of separation, loss and guilt. You also connect this very personal story with many mothers unjustly separated from their babies last century. How do you feel your story, with its threads of collective experience, connects with history’s wronged mothers?

As I researched the social/political context of the time when Peter was taken, I came to see that during that period — the late 1940s–early1950s — the notions of childhood and maternity were almost euphemistic. The bond between mother and child, the profound impact of separation, was not understood or worse, was ignored. Children were taken from their mothers because they were indigenous, because they were poor, because they were born outside marriage. A punishment, as the theft of Peter was for my mother. The effects of this cascaded down through generations, and in each generation they were long-lasting.

How did you manage your own grief when telling the story of your mother and your lost brother, Peter? Was it a challenge to balance your emotions with the facts of their lives as you knew them?

I think now that, in the early days of the writing and research, I was in an odd kind of denial. I’d decided to write the story as the journalist I was, in the third person, trying to be objective. I didn’t see then that it was my story too. As I learned more about my mother’s life, and Peter’s, and looked honestly and clearly at their suffering and how and why it had occurred, I allowed myself for the first time to confront its traumatic impact on us all. I had to grieve a different mother to the one I’d thought I had known.

Did you follow the Stella Prize last year, in its inaugural year? How do you feel about being shortlisted for it this year?

Yes, of course! What an enormous achievement to get the Stella up and running; I’m sure everyone was watching. From the very outset this prize has felt special, and Carrie Tiffany’s extraordinary gesture in sharing her prize money gave it an indelible stamp: reality, warmth, generosity.

Does the Stella hold a different meaning to other prizes which are not gender-specific? Do you think we need women-only writing prizes?

The board and judges and all those behind the prize have ensured it has an aura of authenticity and prestige and celebration. I love the joyous feel it has; the way it has been embraced all over the country. And yes, I do believe we’re at a point in history where we still need women-only prizes here. There are still vexing questions about gender relations in Australia, as evidenced by the recent and spirited debates around misogyny, and these questions are also relevant to the world of Australian literature.

Which female Australian writers inspire you?

All my fellow shortlistees, to start with. And the elders: Eleanor Dark, Christina Stead, Jessica Anderson, Thea Astley and Charmian Clift, for instance, along with Drusilla Modjeska, Helen Garner, Gail Jones… the list is long.

What are you working on next?

Unusually for me, I have two new projects on the go: a novel, and a piece of long-form non-fiction. The novel looks at the idea of neutrality, both political and personal; the main character is a young Swedish glassmaker who has come to Australia in the mid-1960s to work on the Opera House. The other is a kind of biography of the block of land I grew up on in New Farm in Brisbane, taking it back to the glaciers and the rocks beneath, and then up through the layers of human settlement to the present. I’m interested in how deeply we are influenced by geography, both the real and the imaginary, and how our identities are tied to both.

Join the Kill Your Darlings Stella Prize Shortlist Book Club Monday evenings on Twitter from 8–9pm AEST using the hashtag #stella2014. The winner of The Stella Prize will be announced next Tuesday 29 April.




9781408857175

Lou Heinrich

To see each other’s innards: Intimacy in Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress

In Stone Mattress, Atwood’s stories make a remarkable study of intimacy, of seeing each other’s innards, in different partnerships. Through the domestic details she describes, her masterful characterisation and her sharp tone, Atwood crafts the mundane into the profound. Read more »

9781863957120

James Tierney

Dissonance and Tradition: Andrew Ford’s Earth Dances

Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive is a vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance. Read more »

monroe

James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

9807778273_afe6ec792d_z

Rebecca Shaw

Breaking the Celluloid Ceiling

We are still at a point where far less than half the movies we see have a clear female protagonist, even though women are half of the population. If women as an ENTITY are not properly represented, their stories not told, what chance then do women of colour have? Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

fx-2015-winter-tcajpeg-069cb_c0-146-3500-2186_s561x327

Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

cdn.indiewire

Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

39154_4f8f076801b89b442752af76ac226fc0

Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

wowx5-artwork-012-full

Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

The-Rabbits-2015-1280x470

Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

MovingMusicAndreCastellucci1

Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »