Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Different kinds of research behind "Blood and Ink"
When writing "Blood and Ink", I went down two paths for research. The first path, involved more expected research tools, like memoirs and historical records. The second resource I used, much less removed and scholarly, was my mother's memories of her own childhood of poverty and displacement.
Stories of displacement and itinerant populations are already part of the post-settlement history of Western Australia. I read some of the transcribed oral histories of women affected by social upheaval and loss recorded in Nothing to Spare, all contributed by women who were born from 1890 onwards (Carter ix). Their stories of hardship and endurance, of the children they raised and then lost in the Great War, are personal stories, fragments of a larger past. The Stockrider's Daughter in Nothing to Spare describes being forcibly moved from Carrolup settlement to Moore River settlement. She says, "They had kerosene buckets with tea in it and they'd brought boxes of bread" (cited in Carter 1981, 25).
My mother was born in the Great Depression and lived through World War Two in England. Her childhood was one of poverty and upheaval. Her stories of ingenuity and compromise influenced how I wrote Annie and her family in "Blood and Ink". My mother was always very fond of mashed banana sandwiches (a British delicacy that possibly no other country has adapted). When she was a child, there were no bananas, due to food rationing, so "mashed banana" sandwiches were made by boiling and finely mashing parsnips, then adding sugar and yellow colouring. My mother assured me the sandwiches were delicious, particularly at birthday parties. This story from her gave me a window into Annie's world.
The Stockrider's Daughter's story of forced migration is is generations old now. My mother's story is not. Writing Annie and her family, and the world of "Blood and Ink", was based in part on these stories, of making do and being hungry.