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THE GRASS WAS ALWAYS BROWNER
Releasing May 1st, 2016
The Grass Was Alway Browner by Sacha Jones is the story of a strong-willed, smart yet often less than sensible, curious and questioning girl growing up as the middle-child of three children. Her parents are old, and old-fashioned, deeply impractical, idealistic and naive, not best suited to negotiating the rough and rugged terrain of suburban Sydney in the 1970s-80s.
Sacha is not only the middle child, but she is stuck in the middle of the muddle and mess of her family’s situation. She sees and suffers more than her siblings do – or so she feels. However, one advantage of her position is that she is sent to study ballet to treat her asthma, and through ballet she finds a way out of her predicament.
Sacha’s determination to escape her humdrum existence and ‘become Russian’ saw her push through and succeed against the odds (wrong-shaped head, wrong feet, overall wrong build) and a father who is strongly against her becoming a ballet dancer. He describes ballet as ‘a frivolous and selfish pursuit, too focused on appearances.’ His own dreams are focused on a desire to save the Third World. However, in their very different ways, Sacha and her father are more alike than either would care to admit.
In becoming a dancing star, Sacha surprises no-one more than her legendary dance teacher – an actual Russian – Mrs P, Tanya Pearson. However, her father was right about ballet.
Although it gives Sacha the escape she desires, there is a heavy price to pay. And when she sets off for London to further her dance career, it is in part because the Australian dance scene betrayed her trust.
Award-winning playwright, poet and novelist Stephanie Johnson says of The Grass Was Always Browner, “Nineteen seventies suburban Sydney comes winningly alive in Sacha’s light-hearted girlhood memoir of boundless optimism, pink milk, tutus, triumph at the Eisteddfod and a horse in the back garden.”
The Grass Was Always Browner is a laugh-out-loud memoir and a cautionary reminder that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.
A glimpse of family life
Dad’s homecoming I left entirely to Tim. On Fridays these would consist of him standing hand-in-hand with Mum on our front veranda, which was elevated above the street level, not unlike a stage, and when Dad pulled up to park on the verge down by the road, Tim would yell out in his best stage voice: ‘Have you got the grog, Dad?’ for Fridays were grog-buying night and thanks to Tim the entire neighbourhood knew it. There was nothing Mum could do to curb his enthusiasm, try as she might, and despite the needlessness of his inquiry (Dad always had the grog)...
It was good of our laundry to squeeze in a second toilet, because it had recently been called upon to accommodate a second fridge – chiefly for the purpose of storing Dad’s back-up grog. Toilets and fridges are not entirely natural roommates, and indeed the arrangement may well have been illegal. And because of the lack of space in the laundry, when you sat on the toilet, one knee bumped the washing machine and the other the second fridge. This leant a certain rustic quality to the experience, but the advantage of the arrangement was that if you ever overheated whilst sat on the toilet, a not uncommon experience living in Australia, you could reach a short arm out and relieve yourself by the cool of the open fridge door. And while there, you were free to peruse the contents of the fridge, beyond the grog, to consider your next meal while eliminating your last. Some might call that efficient.
Efficient or not, I avoided the laundry toilet for all but the gravest of toilet emergencies, especially at night when the slugs came out. I did not like slugs. Indeed sitting with the slugs I felt was only fractionally better than literally exploding with poo, which is why I put it off until that was nearly the case. The laundry door naturally did not reach all the way down to the concrete floor so it was a free for all for the slugs to come and go as they pleased, congregating around the base of the toilet, possibly because it was inclined to leak. And being Australian slugs they were naturally well fed, and roughly the dimensions of your average-sized seal.
I grew up in the 70's /80's and recently have been searching out books, movies etc that remind me of my childhood.
Although I didn't grow up in Sydney like Ms. Jones did, there was/is such a connection that she made with me in her story-telling. This is a smart and very thoughtful memoir. It's wildly nostalgic and I found The Grass Was Always Browner to be a touching, heartfelt, and yes, even heart breaking memoir. Ms. Jones also writes with such a witty sense of humor. Although at times she goes off topic I LOVED THAT about her writing; just maybe because I'm one of those people too! LOL
Ms. Jones made Sydney and the world of dance come alive for me and I'm glad I was able to read this book.
Sacha Jones has a PhD in Political Theory from the University of Auckland and has variously taught politics, preschool and dancing. She lives with her family on the outskirts of a proper forest (in Auckland, New Zealand) and returns as often as it will have her to the land of fake forests and improbable fruits where she grew up (Frenchs Forest, Sydney).
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