The yield is a novel that challenged my understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture. As this is a genre I don’t often read, it took a few chapters to engage with the content. However, it certainly captured my interest as I continued. It is a fiction novel, but based very much on historical fact in its depiction of the land, language and people, it is told from three perspectives.
Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi, a man of strength and resolve, who has seen it all and lives in two cultures. His cultural beliefs will see him resort to tribal spearing for a grievous wrong whilst engaging with the local librarian in developing the dictionary of his Aboriginal language, before his death. The respect and enthusiasm of the librarian to assist him demonstrates his charismatic presence.
August, his grand-daughter, characterises the struggle of a young Aboriginal woman growing up in Australia. Haunted by the disappearance of her sister, Jedda, she has deprived herself, in many ways, in reaction to this tragedy. Her return home is difficult but as she is drawn into the struggle against dispossession of her land, she finds a connection that will endure.
The most brutal truths of the historic treatment of this Aboriginal settlement, by settlers, is recounted in letters by Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf, in charge of the mission at Prosperous, over the years of first settlement and through the years of the Great War. Dispossession, poverty and unrelenting efforts to wipe out a culture co-exist with the physical atrocities inflicted by the settlers.
Despite the confronting nature of this book, it is not a story of despair. Well written, it provides an insight into the Aboriginal culture and for me, an admiration for the resilience that refuses to relinquish their identity. There is humour and much to smile at whilst challenging our commitment to recognising the traditional custodians of this land.
I would thoroughly recommend The yield and encourage you to persevere, if like me, this is not your usual read…it does draw you in.
Winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award.