Brown Skin Blue
Brown Skin Blue
Young Adult /Adult novel
Available in bookstores, June, 2009
Barry Mundy has brown skin and blue sin and, at seventeen, those two colours define his life. When he gets a job at the Croc-Jumping cruises on the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory, he carries a list of names of the men who could be his father. They’re all dark for different reasons and Barry hungers to know whose blood flows inside him. All he sees when he looks in the mirror is a brown mask that hides a blue secret.
A compelling story, powerfully told.
…this is a superior read.
Australian book review
This is an exceptionally well-written story about the search for a boy’s identity.
Bookseller and Publisher – 4 stars
Every now and then something falls from the sky and takes your breath away. This book is one of those things.
Jeffrey displays a sureness of touch.
Jeffrey captures the searing honesty of children in this deeply moving book.
It should be read, and discussed, by all teenagers.
Sunday Mail Brisbane
Barry’s inner thoughts and dialogue are crisp and the storytelling is atmospheric.
Brown Skin Blue is a warm and sensitive book about a young man finding himself in the rough and rugged croc-infested Australian outback. With an unshakable grounding in the landscape, this young adult novel does not shy away from the difficult issues that Australia has been struggling with in recent years. Child abuse in remote communities, the government intervention in Indigenous communities and our own Australian cultural identity.
The writing is evocative, infused with the sights and smells of the top end. The characters are unforgettable and there is a core of humanity and care at the heart of this book that can not fail to touch a reader. A wonderful book.
Krissy Kneen, Bookseller.
How the book came about
For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination for the missing facts about my family history and our own brown skin. My son was born with a Mongolian Blue Spot, black eyes and beautiful dark brown skin, but I don’t know where our dark blood comes from. We have a few theories and speculations, but we don’t know for sure. All I know is that I have an affinity for Polynesian and Aboriginal culture. The sound of Polynesian drums makes me cry.
Culture and origins are not just measured by the colour of skin, either. An indigenous person may have fair skin, blonde hair. But the colour of skin has been part of my own story and that of my family. There’s a lot we still don’t know about who we are and where we’ve come from.
Two specific events occurred which brought the character of Barry into my mind.
The first was attending my brother’s wedding in Darwin. Over eighty family and friends flew to Darwin from Adelaide and Brisbane and became a team of tourists. I kept pulling over to the side of the road so I could take photos, but they weren’t for an album, I just knew they were for a story. I remember seeing a stretch of land where a fire had gone through. The sky was stark blue and white behind these gnarled, thin tree trunks and it seemed as if smoke was curling up from the ground. It felt like those trees were breathing to me. This eventually inspired the scene where Barry creates the legend of “How The Boy Got Brown Skin”. I bored my husband, kids and relatives silly with my little ideas. I could feel the shadow of a story and the imprint of a character forming in my mind, but all I had was the feel and location of the place and a sense of Barry. We ate hamburgers at the Humpty Doo Hotel and I watched a friend hypnotise a chook on the scratch of dirt next to it. When we went on a Croc Jumping tour, I knew that crocodiles would be the metaphor for the whole story. It would be a story dealing with the beasts and traumas that lie under the surface of our own skin. It wasn’t going to be a comfortable story.
Yet Barry didn’t have any real substance until I saw a report on the television later in the year, about the cycle of abuse in the Tennant Creek community. There was a detailed interview with one Aboriginal boy who had been abused as a child and had also been an abuser as a teenager. He spoke with such innocent honesty and openness, I felt myself completely drawn into his story. The character, Barry, came into my mind immediately; a boy with so much internal wisdom and trauma and not enough words to express it. I went to my computer straight away and the first two pages of Brown Skin Blue were laid down.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people and I love characters who let us into the world of black and white and grey and blue. Characters who are unafraid of facing who they are and what they want.