The Value of Worthless Lives: Writing Italian American Immigrant Autobiographies (review)

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Phylis Cancilla Martinelli
Maureen Perkins, ed. Visibly Different Face, Place and Race in Australia. Bern: Peter Lang, 2007. 187 pp. ISBN 3-039-11323-2, US, SFR50.
Autobiography as social science always enters a difficult space. Self-reflection has a noble history, and is a tried if not fully tested methodology. Verstehen
enables us to place ourselves inside the life-world of the other but what if the other is ourself? Maureen Perkins from Western Australia’s Curtin University has brought together a dozen Australians to write about their sense of being both Australian and other being something else than the blond and blue-eyed anodyne Christian (now typified by Kevin Rudd, the new Prime Minister. These people are mixed am lange in parts of all the peoples who have an Australian homeland.
The authors are an impressive group, all women except for Glenn D’Cruz, an “Anglo-Indian” from Madras. One (Jan Kapetas) indeed is seen by others as not-White (referred to as a child, because of her facial features and slim legs, as “lubra lips an epithet for an Aboriginal girl, even though all her family evidence is that she is directly descended from a Welsh immigrant of the s. Later she adopts immigrant roots stories to defend herself from inquisitions as to her origins. Ien Ang, a leading international scholar of race who has a complex layered history—Indonesian, Chinese, Dutch,
Australian—has written about not speaking Chinese, the disjuncture of not being able to perform the identity that others assign to her. Perkins has two goals with this collection, which sits within a Peter Lang series about mixed race in the Asia Pacific. The first is to demonstrate the

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