The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha.
Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.
August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.
So, because they say it is urgent...I’m taking pen to paper to pass on everything that was ever remembered. All the words I found on the wind.
This was an achingly beautiful story. August has lost her sister, her family, and her home. When she returns to Australia after her grandfather’s death, with a mining company about to take over the property, we revisit not only her past but the history of her people.
I found The Yield to be complex – definitely not a quick, easy read. August’s emotions are genuine, and the story Albert tells through the writing of his Wiradjuri dictionary is heartbreaking. Those who are practised in reading the classics and important literary fiction will likely sail through this, but for me, it felt like exercising a rarely used muscle. For this novel and this story, it’s worth it.
As dark as this story can be at times, more disturbing is a fact found at the end of the author’s note: Australia is the only Commonwealth country not to have a treaty with its Indigenous populations. This is a fictional story, but it is based in fact and mirrors thousands of Australian stories, if not millions of other Indigenous stories worldwide. The world can feel like it is moving backwards in all of the ways that truly matter, so it’s important to read and share stories like these to help keep it moving in the right direction. Only by sharing these stories, not burying them in the past and pretending they don’t exist can we help to restore a little hope and faith in humanity and the common good.
There exists a sort of torture of memory if you let it come, if you invite the past to huddle beside you, comforting like a leech...a footprint in history has a thousand repercussions