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Each month we celebrate an Australian debut release of fiction or non-fiction in the Kill Your Darlings Debut Spotlight feature. For March, that debut is Smashing Serendipity by Louise K. Hansen (Fremantle Press)—the story of one moorditj yorga (one good woman) and the yarn that she tells her children and her grandchildren. 

Sadly, just two days after Smashing Serendipity went to print, Louise passed away. We spoke to her daughter, Alice Kearing, about Louise’s intentions for the book and its readers.

Stay tuned later this month for a review of the book from Debut Spotlight critic Rosie Ofori Ward.

Can you please give a brief summary of Smashing Serendipity for those who haven’t read it?

Smashing Serendipity is the yarn that the narrator tells her children and her grandchildren, gathered by the fire on the banks of the Murray River, where she grew up in Pinjarra. This is my mother’s memoir—the story of one moorditj yorga (one good woman) who was born right in the middle of the twentieth century. As my mother said, it is a story that reflects the stories of so many strong, determined Aboriginal women of her time.

As my mother said, it is a story that reflects the stories of so many strong, determined Aboriginal women of her time.

Can you tell us about what drove Louise to write this book?

My mother wanted to share her life story with her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren because, after reading lots of other people’s biographies, she decided if those fellas could share their stories, then she had a very interesting one to tell too. Her being fair-skinned meant she often found herself in the crossways, and so she often experienced either being accepted or not accepted by those around her. She wrote it so that people who have never walked in the shoes of an Indigenous person could know what it was like. This book doesn’t contain all of my mother’s achievements—she was writing a second book about those.

What was the publication journey like for your mother and your family?

My mother found time to write her story in secret while balancing it against a very busy life. Nobody knew she was writing it. When she had finished it, she showed it to me, and I told her she needed to send it out because it was such a powerful story. There have been movies and Netflix series about Aboriginal experiences, but I have never seen one that was written by an Aboriginal woman about her own life, in the way that my mother had.

Publication was definitely unknown territory for us and my mother didn’t know where to send it. First she sent it to some publishers in America and they told her because it was an Australian story, she should send it to Fremantle Press instead, so it wound up there.

Can you tell us a bit about Louise’s art on the cover?

The painting on the cover of the book was one that my mother did, and it hangs in my mother’s house. In Smashing Serendipity she describes the painting this way:

This painting tells the story of my parents’ respective birth countries. The top orange half depicts Dad’s Palyku land in the Pilbara in its original state before mining. It has all natural vegetation and food sources, uncleared with fresh water and rivers running through it. It is a beautiful but harsh land. The bottom half shows Mum’s Nyoongar country and how, since colonisation, it has been cleared of nearly all its virgin bushland. It is fenced off. It too is quite beautiful but our people can no longer access areas that used to contain our songlines and stories, or any that may have had significance to us. We cannot hunt there anymore. It is now used for farming, with rows and rows of planted crops and trees. The land is very green, organised and structured to accommodate eventual harvesting. In the top half of the painting there are two circles, one dark brown with a red centre and one white with a red centre. The dark brown one represents my Dad’s mother – my grandmother. The white one represents my Irish grandfather. They fell in love. And their skin may have been different but they had at least one thing in common. Both had red blood.

As Louise’s daughter, what do you hope people will take away from this book?

I hope that this book will help people find their own determination, and that they will be inspired by one woman’s yarn. This is a book about a person who struggled but came out of it. Mum wrote this story because she wanted to share it with her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. Even though we lived it with her, there were lots of things she kept from us growing up, to protect us, and so we wouldn’t think badly about some of the people in our life. She didn’t want us to have this knowledge until we were adult enough.

My mother broke so many barriers in writing this book, and telling the truth, describing life as it really was for her and Aboriginal women like her.

My mother was a survivor of homelessness, racism, and segregation, and of the way land is denied to Aboriginal people. She fought for land rights too because private property ownership meant that she couldn’t go with her father to access his country, like visiting important watering holes. My mother broke so many barriers in writing this book, and telling the truth, describing life as it really was for her and Aboriginal women like her. She was my mentor, my role model and my idol.


Smashing Serendipity is available now from your local independent bookseller.