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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review: Calypso Summer

Calypso is a young Nukunu man fresh out of high school. He relates more to his Rasta persona than he does to his Aboriginal heritage.

When Calypso’s dream job falls through, he starts working at the local health food shop. One thing leads to another and Calypso finds himself visiting his extended family for the first time to get information about traditional bush tucker and medicinal plants. Will connecting with his family heritage help Calypso discover who he is and help him to make the right choices to direct his future?

Calypso Summer is an engaging coming of age story about identity that has a universal message as well as some interesting Australian indigenous culture themes.  Like many teens, Calypso is keen to establish his identity independent of his family while also dealing with peer pressure, romance and a multitude of cultural influences. He is also experiencing his Aboriginal heritage for the first time, so the reader is drawn along with him as he discovers what it means to be an Aboriginal man and to learn about the traditions of his family.

I loved the sense of family and connection in Calypso Summer and Calypso’s gradually increasing awareness that he is not only part of a rich cultural heritage, but as a young man he is also responsible for preserving and representing that heritage in a modern setting. I also liked that amidst the more serious themes and conversations, there was a shared love of sport, in this case cricket, that overcame barriers and offered Calypso and his family a way to connect and communicate.

At the most superficial level, Calypso Summer is an interesting story about a teenage boy on the brink of adulthood trying to deal with family, a budding romance, friends making bad choices and an ethical question that could make or break his new relationship with his extended family.

For those who want to read more deeply, it also examines the additional pressures on teenagers, particularly Aboriginal teens, as they transition from student to adult. Calypso must deal with the common teen dilemma of establishing his own identity as an individual while also working out how he connects with his family and cultural heritage. There are references to racism, cultural stereotypes and the limited choices that face many teens in remote or rural areas where options are limited in the post-school years.

There are teachers’ notes available for this text and it is ideal for high school classroom discussions about identity and cultural heritage, particularly Aboriginal heritage and the significance of family, community and traditions.

Title: Calypso Summer
Author: Jared Thomas 
Publisher: Magabala Books, $19.95 RRP
Publication Date: April 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781922142122
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

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