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Common People by Tony Birch (UQP)
Common People is wise, thoughtful and funny. A superb exploration of the lives of ordinary folk of all persuasions, these stories are as serious in intent as they are compassionate in execution. Common People is prescient, too, in addressing some of the critical issues facing underclass women. Tenderness is not a quality stereotypically assigned by outsiders to either the poor or to Aboriginal men, but Birch’s writing of the human condition here is deeply empathetic.
Birch opens his readers’ eyes to what is shared by ordinary Australians of humble backgrounds — Aboriginal, poor white, immigrant, and often of unspecified race, but always of undoubted common humanity. The author has succeeded brilliantly in his ambition to meld a deeply Aboriginal view of the world with hopes for a better Australian polity, where human dignity is at a premium. This is some of Australia’s finest writing about class and it is coming from the heart of Indigenous Naarm.