Academic journal article Hecate

Gender in Purple Threads: An Interview with Jeanine Leane

Academic journal article Hecate

Gender in Purple Threads: An Interview with Jeanine Leane

Article excerpt

Jeanine Leane is Wiradjuri woman from Southwest New South Wales. She has a doctorate in literature and Aboriginal representation, and a long career in the high school system and university system. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian National University, Canberra where she currently holds an Australian Research Council fellowship. Her interest in education, diversity, and Indigenous perspectives is strongly grounded in twenty years of teaching at secondary and tertiary levels. In 2010 Jeanine's first book of poetry Dark Secrets After Dreaming: AD 1887-1961 (PressPress, 2010) won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous poetry. Her collection of rural yarns, Purple Threads (2011), won the David Unaipon award and the Queensland Premier's Award. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize and the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Indigenous Writing. Her current research project is an exploration of contemporary Australian Indigenous writing and writers. She is currently working on a second novel, which will be a collection of inter-related stories revolving around the lives and interactions of a large extended Aboriginal family living in Canberra during the 1980s and the lead up to the 1988 settler bicentenary - the two-hundredth anniversary of the invasion of Aboriginal land.

This interview took place on the Claflin University campus in Orangeburg, South Carolina, USA, on Wednesday, 16 September 2015. Students from Dr Belinda Wheeler's GNST 303/ ENGL 303 Introduction to Gender Studies class interviewed Dr Leane. Students read Purple Threads and Dr Wheeler's earlier interview with Dr Leane in preparation for this interview.1

The participants in the interview were as follows: Dr Jeanine Leane, Dr Belinda Wheeler, Ms Kimberly Broughton, Ms Jennifer Clark, Mr Malcolm Jones, Ms Nidja Muldrow, and Mr Damon Williams.2

Belinda Wheeler (BW): Welcome back to the Claflin University campus, Jeanine.

Jeanine Leane (JL): It is a pleasure to return to the campus.

BW: I know my students are very keen to ask you a range of questions about Purple Threads. We thoroughly enjoyed reading it and exploring it from a gender studies perspective. I'm going to turn the floor over to them.

JL: Great.

Malcolm Jones (MJ): What ultimately prompted you to write Purple Threads? What was the message you were trying to convey to readers, and was that message the same for Australian and non-Australian readers?

JL: Two things prompted me to write Purple Threads. First, the book may be presented in a type of fictionalized form, but it is very grounded in truth and the women in the book are actually real people. The two older aunties have passed away now and it occurred to my sister and I that there is a very important history there and an important story. One of the ongoing issues we have in Australia is that the official history does not reflect the experiences of Aboriginal people accurately at all. I was motivated by the truth and the tribute of the aunties themselves because for me they were both early feminists. They wouldn't have described themselves as feminists but they were feminists. Second, there is the fact that I feel very strongly about activism and I think that the aunties and a lot of Aboriginal women like them were activists. Many people think of activism as banner or flag carrying. That is the public face of activism, but it is like an iceberg in that there is one tenth of what you see and nine tenths of what you don't see-that is the people on the home front who actually keep things moving forward. A lot of people wouldn't have imagined Aboriginal women from the 1920s and the 1930s, through to my childhood-the 1960s and 1970s, as having much agency. Quite a lot of Aboriginal women did have agency, but it just wasn't obvious to many due to the way they enacted their activism that often flew under the radar. I wanted to share these stories with a broad audience so that readers would see just how dynamic Australian Aboriginal women have been throughout history. …

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