Literary non-fiction Mod 2
Lowitja by Stuart Rintoul
Lowitja is an excellent authorised biography that traces the life of Lowitja O’Donoghue and her remarkable contribution to creating awareness regarding Indigenous people and their history. Her life story is tenderly captivated by Stuart Rintoul, who retells the heartache, loss and ultimate sacrifice Lowitja and her family endured at the hands of familial separation. The biography includes factual information and retells Australia’s history with a new and reimagined honesty. Readers are privy to the heartbreaking separation of Lowitja from her mother and her removal from her family, culture and language. Whilst Rintoul doesn’t empathically create a sense of emotional appeal, readers are left with a sense of discrimination and shock at Lowitja’s experiences. What makes this woman remarkable is that her steely determination is born out of an innate sense of justice and fighting for what is right. Lowitja O’Donoghue’s achievements are admirable and she is honoured with awards such as Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Australian of the Year, National Living Treasure and Companion of the Order of Australia, which is astonishingly inspirational when the reader learns of the basic and blatant discrimination she experienced as a young woman.
Literary non-fiction is an excellent genre to introduce readers, particularly students, to understanding a perspective other than their own, and allows students to learn about their history, the social and cultural context and inherent ideologies present in a time before they lived. Storytelling itself is an ancient art form and allows the author to convey social values and develop a sense of self, empathy and understanding (Comer-Kidd & Castano, 2013). Narrative non-fiction allows readers to engage meaningfully with a narrative that allows them to understand facts and develop an understanding of the facts presented (Cornett, 2014).
Literary non-fiction, such as Lowitja, is an excellent way to introduce students to the history of Australia, through the eyes of somebody who has lived a life very different to their own. It is this perspective that gives students valuable insight into the not so glamourous history of Australia, but also reads as a great inspirational tale that demonstrates what one can achieve, even through great adversity.
Literary non-ficion, such as biographies are an excellent form of narration that exist in secondary school libraries. They make the content accessible and students often find recalling information from such texts easier than the recall from traditional textbooks (Cornett, 2014). Lowitja allows students to engage with O’Donoghue’s story on a personal level and this fosters greater cognitive and developmental engagement, which allows students to recall the historical facts with greater ease. Students also develop greater critical thinking skills because students are forced to consider and evaluate the information presented to them and make sense of a perspective of Australia’s history they may not have been previously privy to (Morris, 2013).
This text fulfills the Year 10 English and History curriculum as well as the General Capabilities in Literacy and Ethical Considerations (ACARA, 2014a; ACARA, 2014b; ACARA, 2014c, ACARA, 2014d). This text would be an excellent addition to any secondary school library, as it addresses more than one curriculum area and the requirements of the General Capabilities.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2014a). F-10 English Curriculum. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/english/
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2014b). F-10 English Curriculum. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/humanities-and-social-sciences/history
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2014c). F-10 General Capabilities – Critical and Creative Thinking. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general- capabilities/critical-and-creative-thinking
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2014d). F-10 General Capabilities – Ethical Understanding. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general- capabilities/ethical-understanding
Comer Kidd, D & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342 (6156), 377 -380.
Cornet, C.E. (2014). Integrating the literary arts throughout the curriculum. In Creating meaning through literature and the arts:arts integration for Classroom teachers (5th ed).
Morris, R. (2013). Linking learning and literary non-fiction. School Library Monthly, 29(7), 39 – 40.