This is the first book that has really challenged my perceptions of what reading non-white travelogues means. Meeting Faith, by Faith Adiele, is about becoming Thailand’s first black Buddhist nun, and all the things that happened along the way.
This is a book review, but we’ll be honest; it’s mostly a blog post about Steph.
As you know, I’m reading a bunch of travelogues by non-white travelers because travel is for brown people too. Today’s book review is of Around India in 80 Trains, by Monisha Rajesh. It’s exactly what it sounds like, by a member of the Indian diaspora.
Last weekend, I had the extraordinary privilege of spending three days at Uluru. I thought I could write it up in a quick, pithy post not unlike a museum shop review, but this post is almost three thousand words long, and how can you reduce such an amazing and awe-inspiring place to a score out of five?
This weekend the Jaipur Literary Festival came to Melbourne, hosted by the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. This was a free event, with a full day of panels and activities, and so of course Stephanie attended. Below the fold: Writing Travel, and From the Margins to the Mainland.
In an effort to get through her to-be-read pile, Steph is attempting to read one non-white travelogue a month in 2017. Her first: Following Fish: Travels around the Indian coast, by Samanth Subramanian.
Hope you like learning about fish curries and the evils of globalisation. 4.5/5 fishies.
A travelogue is an old tradition; an old form of writing. There are records of travel diaries as early as the second century CE; there are Arabic travel journals in the twelfth century and Chinese travel literature in the tenth. There are diaries and journals; maps and economics; boredom and poetry.
A travelogue is the transcription of an adventure; of an exploration; a movement into the unknown or, less commonly, into the known. Travel literature considers one’s identity, and one’s country, and one’s world.
A travelogue is, often, a reflection of the self.
A travelogue tells the audience a lot about a traveller. Between the lines are the things the traveller sees every day, and the assumptions a traveller makes, and the joys a traveller takes from moving through the world.
In Australia, and predominantly in English-language writing, a travelogue is about the traveller; and in its way, it is about the other. This requires an assumption around who is the audience, and who is the other, for there are few other ways to represent those with whom the narrative comes in contact.
I love travelogues. I love them for what they tell you about a person, and a place, and sometimes, what they tell you about yourself. I love travelogues of Australians in Australia; non-Australians in Australia; Australians not in Australia. (I also love travel tales of people in China and Malaysia and Singapore, the other places of my heart) I love these because whether these are travel stories of people in their homes or not in their homes, their stories are always new to me, and there’s always an exploration and an unfamiliarity and a joy, of sorts.
I love it when people talk about their travelogues!
In other news, here’s Other Places, a thing Writer’s Victoria is hosting tonight:
What drives people to leave the comfort of their everyday lives and suffer in far-flung parts of the world with unpronounceable names and indigestible food? Is it our essentially “nomadic” nature, as Bruce Chatwin claims? Is it “The Call of the Wild”? Or is that just a bunch of pretentious First World rubbish? All of the above, according to Tom Doig, author of Moron to Moron: two men, two bikes, one Mongolian misadventure. Come along and find out why.
The audience: clearly not me. Though I choose to leave the comfort of my inner-north Melbourne home, it’s for the comfort of the family home in Malaysia, with its squat toilets and five grown adults in two bedrooms and mosquito netting. I’m a person with a name that is, in its way, unpronounceable (certainly many people mispronounce it). My food is, to many people, indigestible. So, in the dichotomy of the audience and the other, I’m pretty comfortable in assuming I’m the other, here, despite having been born in Australia and loving a good travelogue.
People not from the “first world” travel, and then write about it. People from the first world can be pretty rubbishly pretentious.
I really wanted to go, because I love travel writing and I’m currently working on a brown person’s travelogue (mine). Now, I really want to go and find out if this event is gonna be as casually, thoughtlessly racist as it sounds like it’s going to be, but I really can’t justify the $50 just to get angry.
If you go, let me know. I’ve got some questions.
Other Places Writer’s Victoria
The Wheeler Centre
September 8, 18:30 – 20:30
Non-member $50 / Member $35 / Concession $30
I have not made my sadness known to Writer’s Victoria, as I’m not currently a member. Lately, as I publish more and more regularly, and as I truly begin to consider myself the writer part of ’emerging writer’, it’s something I’ve been considering. But right now, after this, I don’t want to. How can I expect support from an organisation that promotes this exclusion?