Tara June Winch yields to Byron Writers Festival

‘The Yield’ is a groundbreaking Australian novel by Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch, advance copies of which are already receiving five star reviews. Set for release on 2 July, ‘The Yield’ tells the story of Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi, who takes pen to paper, knowing he will soon die.

Already critically acclaimed for her first two novels, Tara June Winch is one of the most highly anticipated guests at the upcoming Byron Writer’s Festival, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her ahead of her appearance.

What was the inspiration behind ‘The Yield’?

I’ve always been interested in languages. I knew I wanted to write about the power of reconnecting with a language that my ancestors would have spoken freely, not only to reclaim the words, but also the deep time associated with an ancient language. The work of Stan Grant Snr and John Rudder in resurrecting the Wiradjuri language was the main inspiration. They gave a people back their language and I wanted to honour their work and find a way to write a non-fiction novel about belonging in this country.

How would you describe ‘The Yield’ in five words?

Family. Language. Love. Home. Ngurambang (country)

What inspired you to include the Wiradjuri dictionary?

I used the Wiradjuri language dictionary and took a class in western NSW during my research for Swallow the Air over a decade ago. I felt a sadness that the novel didn’t accommodate and include more language, and I think I just reckoned with myself that I would circle back to revisit the language again in another book, which is ‘The Yield’.

It is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, are you passionate about breathing new life into traditional Aboriginal languages, many of which have been forgotten? Why?

It’s important to remember that English is the second, third, fourth and so on language to many indigenous people still alive and thriving today. The challenge is three-fold – that our education system can balance and honour our intact indigenous languages in parts of Australia and celebrate those languages and cultures and people by allowing fluidity in the classroom. The other side is for the allowance of our people to engage in connection and healing through language – through supportive community projects, or programs of rehabilitation rather than locking our people away or passing off the residue of pain and trauma that we battle with. That is the work of decolonising the mind and tongue. Finally I think as a nation there is an opportunity for we, all of us, as Australians, new and old, to embrace the mother tongue of where we live – whether it be by supporting local language centres and linguists or lobbying for first nation language programs to be taught in our local schools and early childhood curriculums – feeling proud of our cultural history as a nation, acknowledging the horrors openly and giving all of us a real fighting chance to be so proud of our country’s future and the resilience of our first people.

I see you are based in France, what draws you to that country? Did you write the profoundly Australian book ‘The Yield’, there too?

Much of ‘The Yield’ has been written while in France. Sometimes being away from a place makes the senses of the landscape more sharp and profound. Although at the same time, equal amounts were written in Australia too. I was drawn to France for the language and the literature for sure.

I’ve read both ‘After the Carnage’ and ‘Swallow the Air’ and loved the rawness of your writing, do you have authors you draw inspiration from or whom you admire?

French writers! Albert Camus and Marguerite Duras. And then lots of Australian musicians like Archie Roach and Paul Kelly.

Why should people read ‘The Yield’?

You’ll realise. And then you’ll realise you should share your copy with your friends and family too. It’s my love letter to the past and the future of Australia. I said what I really wanted to say for my grandparents, my parents, my siblings and my daughter equally. That’s something to me and I just hope it translates to something for everyone.

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