This is an anthology of short stories and poetry written for a Young Adult audience. The stories, told from a range of unique perspectives are inspired by the experiences or observations of the authors themselves and feature teenage protagonists.
With a foreword by acclaimed Samoan playwright Victor Rodger the diverse range of Aotearoa-New Zealand contributors embrace their culture in the context of their identity. And according to the blurb they are, “writing loudly into the silence of the page, they remind us that everyone has a story to share about how they found themselves still standing”.
Between You & Me includes a comprehensive teaching guide, with particularly excellent suggestions on crafting stories. The guide includes individual notes on the narratives. I enjoyed reading the authors’ bios to follow each story, that included reflections about the inspiration for each piece. The anthology isn’t divided into sections, so I was surprised, when in the final section, the last set of seven authors didn’t also have accompanying bios beside their work. This was their first appearance in the collection and so I wanted to read about these writers as individuals too. I learnt in the teaching guide that these pieces were inspired by prompts provided by the Young NZ Writers group for their annual writing competitions. These stories are wonderful exemplars of the creativity of young people.
Each of the pieces in the collection included moments that made me smile or that I felt affected by, but I was particularly taken by The Dump by Sally McLean and Dancing Ghost by Gina Cole.
I highly recommend this anthology for a teenage readership. We need to celebrate the diverse voices that illustrate stories and experiences of Aotearoa-New Zealanders and ensure that young audiences can read about themselves. This anthology does important work.
Title: Between You & Me, Culture in Context in Aotearoa
Author: Anthology of short stories, edited by Lee Murray, Piper Mejia and Jean Gilbert
Contributors include: a foreword by Victor Rodger, and stories and poems by Sarah Dunn, Jean Gilbert, Dan Rabarts, Isaiah Tour, Shriya Bhagwat, KyleMewburn, Ikey Ihaka Tunui, Gina Cole, Lee Murray, M.L.E. Brown, Sally McLennan, Jack Remiel Cottrell, Hina Tabassum Cheema, Donna McLeod, Piper Mejia, and Jade Kake, and by student writers Elizabeth Chua, Emma Sio, Jacob Hagan, Kevin Lee, Sian McIlroy, Rebecca Talsma, and Robbie Murray.
Illustrator: Cover art by Grace Bridges
Publisher: Rogue House Publishing
Cost: 15 class book bundle for $375, 2nd bundle for $330 (including teaching notes and postage)
Publication: February 2022
Ages: Young Adult and up
Themes: identity, human nature, adversity, judgement, racism, acceptance, resilience, new beginnings, belonging, empathy, mindful revolution
Do you have any advisory warnings for this book? These stories are raw and sometime sad
Would this book work as a read aloud? Yes
Is there a particular part of the country that it’s set in? No. The stories are widespread
Reviewer: Thalia Henry, Acting Kaiako Matua of Integrated Studies (Literacy Across the Curriculum), and English teacher at Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, Northern Region (Auckland branch).
How are you recommending this book? Highly recommended
Opening sentence: In the late 1980s, I was the only brown face amongst a sea of white faces when I became a cadet reporter on a daily newspaper in Christchurch.