Review: Australia to Z

Australia to Z_CVR.indd

Juxtaposing words and images, the multi-award-winning author of The Island shines an uncompromising light on what it is to be Australian.

Australia to Z – an alphabet book, but not one for the young and teaching them their letters. Instead Armin Greder has cast his critical eye on us and our symbols.’ Libby Gleeson

‘Disquieting and potent – a “gloves off” account of Australian nationhood, and how we, as a culture, might appear to those from other cultures. This is a profoundly significant work which will – like Greder’s The Island and The City – provoke, disturb and challenge the reader’s perception of what it means to be Australian, and what it means to be a global citizen.’ Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright

If you go to Your Dictionary (dot com) and search for the word irony, the title of this book appears as an “accurate literature representation”.


See? Another word where it appears is the word “juxtaposition”.

Capture 2

Your Dictionary is obviously very intelligent *nods*

When first requesting this book, I thought it would be a cute book with patriotic items from A-Z. I’m thinking maybe fluffy koalas and vibrant eucalyptus trees? Maybe M for multiculturalism or D for diversity. V for Vegemite and L for lamingtons! And yes, some of these are here. A fat lady eating lamingtons and a young girl spreading vegemite on toast are just two of the 26 full page image spreads in this book. But scattered amongst the pages of “Footy” and “Gold Coast” – an image of people sunbathing and lounging around on the beach are things such as B for Boat People – accompanied with an image of a boat being turned back – and P for Pokies – a line of people staring blankly at gambling screens, their faces lit pale white and ghostly bright. A harsh and merciless view of the Australian culture, including and especially the darker underbelly, Armin Greder’s book of ABCs for adults is very discomforting. With his rough, unclean and raw brush strokes that mirror the rough, unclean and raw sides of Australian culture, Greder brings to light the facts we’d rather hide. Even some seemingly innocent words such as “kangaroo” and “zoo” can be completely reversed through an image. What would it look like, for example, if the kangaroo was jumping onto a road in front of a car? What if the image of a zoo we all know and love – a lion roaring or a penguin swimming – was suddenly replaced with –

No, I won’t spoil it. But through the addition of a meagre one or two items, or a different point of view, Greder geniusly manages to completely change the meaning of a word.

Then. To top it all off. To put the cherry on the cake, in an almost mocking gesture, there is an illustrated two page spread of our national anthem right at the end. Verse 2, lines 5 and 6: “For those who’ve come across the seas, We’ve boundless plains to share”. Then, an image of a boat arriving at a pier, and a sign declaring “Go back. We’re Full”

See what I mean by irony? This is sure to be a controversial book, a “love it or hate it”, and it’s a love from me. Outstandingly creative.

(P.S. To all you Aussie readers… Happy [delayed] Australia Day!)

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★ 10/10

Australia to Z is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.

The Info:

  • Title: Australia to Z
  • Author: Armin Greder
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Allen and Unwin (January 1st, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN10: 9781760113186
  • URL: Allen and Unwin

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4 thoughts on “Review: Australia to Z

  1. Happy Australia Day or happy Invasion Day? (The ‘invasion’ refers to white treatment of our indigenous people as opposed to refugees). Our treatment of refugees is no better. Unfortunately the people who should read this book, won’t.

    Liked by 2 people

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