The latest book by Ashley Kalagian Blunt is a burst of sunshine on a grey-sky day, a fresh take on life, love and this vast country we call Australia.
Strictly speaking, How to Be Australian is memoir, relating Kalagian Blunt’s experience of moving from her birthplace, Canada, to Australia, while at the same time adjusting to marriage with her husband Steve. The book details Ashley’s impressions and discoveries, and reveals how she and Steve cope with this geographical and emotional transition.
But How to Be Australian is more than straightforward memoir.
It describes intriguing facts and unusual incidents with bemusement, admiration or even horror; it analyses some of Australia’s foibles, brilliance and oddities. I was about to close the book when I flipped a page and saw the headline ‘Why I put a cracker up my clacker’.
It’s funny, but also sweetly tender. It wasn’t brazen or overt. His love was a quiet pat on the hand. It was the loyalty to come and sit beside me while I dripped my messy emotions everywhere…
It expresses Kalagian Blunt’s big, blossoming love for Australia. Taking in the busy splendour of Circular Quay, I felt like someone had handed me the crown jewels.
Yet it’s more than these things, too. The book asks questions about the concept of home. I lay awake, feeling homesick for a home I hadn’t yet found. It addresses the issue of fitting in, or not fitting in. It relates to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, or feeling unable to cope when anxiety rises. It’s about intimate relationships, how they fray, and how they strengthen. It seeks to understand friendship — sometimes a delicate dance, but even more so when there are cultural differences. I was earnestly — still too earnestly, after all these years — trying to understand this country…
How to Be Australian brims with acute observation, hilarious anecdotes and honest emotion. It’s a dazzling combination.