Anita Heiss (Simon & Schuster Australia) 2014, 354pp, RRP $29.95
Tiddas, by Anita Heiss, is the story of five friends, or tiddas, who are dealing with the challenges of a broken marriage, unwanted pregnancy, infertility, alcoholism and the scars left by a fatherless childhood. The women have all moved to the big smoke of Brisbane, to follow their careers (best-selling author, TV presenter, funeral director, cultural educator and professional perfect mother). The women’s friendships help them through the tough times, but also challenge them to live their best lives.
This is not your average chick-lit tale. Three out of the five main characters are Aboriginal and this allows Heiss to examine what it means to be a successful, contemporary, urban Aboriginal woman. Heiss strikes a nice balance between typical chick-lit subject matter (friendship, careers, romance and shopping) and race-related subject matter (racism, discrimination, cultural expectations on Aboriginal women from within their communities, inter-race marriage and connection to country). What I loved most about Heiss’ exploration of these cultural issues was her focus on the positive aspects of Aboriginal culture. What a breath of fresh air compared to the usual dross we are fed in much of the mainstream media.
Heiss uses the women’s cultural backgrounds to add depth to their stories and in the process creates a novel that is at once interesting, educational and enjoyable. Tiddas is a notch above most chick-lit because it offers the reader more than standard chick-lit fare. Also, I would dare to say that this kind of book is important. I hate using that word – it makes the book sound like a chore, and it’s not, it’s a pleasure to read. What I mean is that, I hope at least, this kind of work signals a maturing of our (white) culture and a small step towards conciliation.