Our Race for Reconciliation Review

Title: Our Race for Reconciliation (My Australian Story)
Author: Anita Heiss
Publisher: Scholastic
Readership: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★
RRP: $16.99

I received a copy of Our Race for Reconciliation from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mel Gordon loves running, and watching Seinfeld, but mostly she loves Cathy Freeman. It’s 2000 and the Olympics are going to be held in Australia. In a year of surprises, Mel finds out that Cathy Freeman is coming to talk to her school. And her family is heading to Sydney!

It becomes an unforgettable journey to Corroboree 2000, bringing together all Australians as they march and sing and celebrate Australia’s Indigenous heritage, and also acknowledge past wrongs.

I feel like 2020 is the year that I’m reading all of the Anita Heiss books I can get my hands on. Scholastic seems to be re-releasing a lot of titles and I’m all here for that.

Our Race for Reconciliation is the story of Mel Gordon, a young girl who loves to run and admires Cathy Freeman. Set in the lead-up to, and during, the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Mel has the opportunity to hear Cathy speak at her school, travel to Sydney and participate in the 2000 Corroboree, marching alongside other Australians celebrating the heritage of the Indigenous people and acknowledging past wrongs.

It’s always fascinating to me to find books that are set during my lifetime in a place that I lived during that time. I was in Year 8 in 2000 and I was living in Sydney at the time, so the Olympics was a huge part of my life that year. Admittedly,  being a relatively oblivious young teen I probably didn’t pay closer attention to the Corroboree march (apart from being highly indignant about the lack of participation by the then-Australian Prime Minister) – but these were all things that were happening around me that I was aware of and reading Our Race for Reconciliation made me stop and think about my memories from that time, which I honestly haven’t thought about for a long time.

Mel was such a wonderful, well crafted character. She’s passionate and determined and eager to learn. She dreams of being a professional runner, like her hero, Cathy Freeman, and works hard to achieve her goals – to the point where they kind of consume her life and it affects some of her relationships with friends and family until they pull her back to reality a bit. But she’s a strong, Indigenous character who is surrounded by people who love and support her and that kind of representation is so important and so needed in our youth literature her in Australia.

There are so many elements that young readers will relate to – that determination to be the best at that thing you’re really good at. The desire to meet idols – and then being so overwhelmed by them that things don’t always go to plan. The need to find your place in your family and to know your history, which, for Mel is compounded by the terrible crimes committed against the Indigenous population throughout history that impact significantly on her family and her.

Our Race for Reconciliation is a fantastic book, set during a very important time in Australia’s recent history and readers young and old will enjoy it.

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