Saturday, June 6, 2020

Discussion Points for 'Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter'

  1. Many books have been written about the establishment of modern Australia but few like this one. Robert Forrester was an illiterate convict but when officialdom’s paper trail is followed in chronological order a powerful underlying story emerges. Do you prefer this 'case study' approach to telling Australia's early colonial story? Does this book have general applicability beyond this particular family, as a social history suitable for Australian libraries and classrooms?
  2. The book’s title is a deliberate play on words, intended to convey three meanings. What are they?
  3. What did you make of Robert’s concept of ‘home’ in this book? At what point do you think he became an Australian? Does this book tell the story of migration for today’s ‘new Australians’?
  4. The author’s original version of this story, Robert Forrester, First Fleeter, published in 2009, was the first sustained attempt to explore the economic impact of government policies and natural disasters on an individual convict settler. Sentenced to Debt continues the author's focus on economic history. Does this theme of the 'haves' and 'have nots' still resonate today?
  5. The author, with all of her forebears originating in the United Kingdom and northern Europe, has had a long involvement in community education and humbly offers Chapters 7-11 of this book, in particular, as a ‘truth telling’ exercise. Did she succeed?
  6. What attitudes towards women surfaced in this book? What did you make of the relationships between Robert and Mary Frost; between Robert and Bella Ramsay; between Robert and Jane Metcalf; between Robert and his children; between Robert and his friends and neighbours? Does the voice of women emerge from this book?
  7. The Past. Did you learn anything new about Australia’s early colonial history? Has it broadened your perspective on anything personal or societal? Did you learn anything new about environmental issues, geography and climate in this book? Did this book convey a sense of place?
  8. The Present. Do the issues described in the book affect lives today? The year 2020 has intensified the world’s focus on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ issue? Did this book change your attitude to the issues facing the Aboriginal people of Australia? Did this book strengthen or weaken your own sense of personal identity?
  9. The Future. Some of the themes in this book relate to the notion of the Australian identity, citizenship, the concept of national heroes and the celebration of Australia Day. Although the Uluru Statement from the Heart is not mentioned in this book, its resolution is a necessary part of Australia’s future. Did Sentenced to Debt clarify, confirm or change your views about these issues?
  10. Because ‘comprehension’ is not routinely taught as a skill in today’s classrooms, the creative writing exhortation to ‘express an idea in your own words’ often allows old meanings to be carelessly distorted. In this non-fiction book did you find the extensive use of quotations from history, to convey the original meaning of any given situation, useful or tedious?
  11. Readability. Did this story flow? Was this a book that you ‘couldn’t put it down’ or did you need to digest it in small doses? Did any specific passages strike you as memorable? Were the illustrations helpful? How did you feel as you reached the end? Satisfied? Enlightened? Angry? Confused? Grateful? What did you find most surprising, intriguing or difficult to understand? What adjective would describe the stand-out feature of this book for you? Would you recommend this book to others?
Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter was published by Louise Wilson, South Melbourne, 18 May 2020, ISBN 978-0-9804478-6-6. For more details, see here.
Purchase Sentenced to Debt online at BookPOD
P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.

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