The strength of women, their journeys and the bonds of friendship are central themes in author and proud Wiradjuri woman Dr Anita Heiss’ latest book ‘Tiddas’. It’s a departure from her previous novels about young women – more serious and draws on her own life experiences as a middle aged woman.
“I needed to write something different,” she says. “I was boxed into the ‘chicklit’ genre [books written for young women in their 20s], and at 45 years of age I wanted to write something more serious.”
‘Tiddas’ is a story about what it means to be a friend. Five women, best friends for decades, meet once a month to talk about books and life, love and the jagged bits in between. Dissecting each other’s lives seems the most natural thing in the world – and honesty, no matter how brutal, is something they treasure.
Like all good books, there is intrigue, suspense, issues and resolutions – and the journey in between. Each woman harbours a complex secret and one weekend, without warning, everything comes unstuck. But you will need to read the book to find out more.
‘Tiddas’ is set in Brisbane Queensland, a city Anita has a passion for, and spent time in, while researching her new book.
“I fell in love with Brisbane. There are beautiful, cultural precincts and Murris everywhere,” she says.
Much of the inspiration for the central characters comes from Anita’s own friendships.
“I have a core group of friends and we support each other when we are distressed, and we are honest with each other and this book pays tribute to that honesty between women. We have a lot in common: we like to read and talk about politics, eat out…and we all have our dark moments and our demons. We help each other through the journeys we are on as older women,” she says.
“Tiddas is very much about the simplicity of sistahood.”
The characters in the book come from a variety of backgrounds and races – Indigenous and non-Indigenous but the friendship between them cuts across cultures. A commonality is that they all have self-doubt, Anita says.
“They feel disappointment, fear and grief,” she says. “It’s about that sameness, the friendship, and that sameness is something we can celebrate.”
A good, sweeping read, ‘Tiddas’ is a book about learning, growing and evolving and, ultimately, change.
“Like life, there’s not a happy ending for everyone. It’s also about identity and for the Aboriginal women, owning Aboriginal identity. There is also a strong sense of place for these women who still maintain a connection with home and country,” she says.
One of the characters, Nadine, is a successful writer. While it’s perhaps too simplistic to think that this character is based on the author, Anita does empathise with some of her anxiety as an author.
“I do get into the character’s headspace but the stories are fiction. Some of the dialogue and the settings are real though, based on going to the places the characters go to. When Nadine is crying in the cemetery, I went there myself and sat in that cemetery. I want to give the reader this authenticity,” she says.
All of the characters live in a contemporary society and are ‘women in the real world’. In this way, Anita is reflecting modern Aboriginal women, living in urban societies with established careers, who are mothers, wives and daughters.
‘Tiddas’ is a story for today’s readers, both women and men.
“I was interviewed by two males recently who were interested in the book because it was about women. It [the book] is also a way for men to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a way that is not confrontational or challenging.”
Anita is currently busy on the promotional circuit – book signings, media interviews and that’s enough for the moment, she says.
“This is the first time in 15 years that I don’t have a book project on the boil. I’m on the book tour and happy to enjoy the next six months of this.”
‘Tiddas’ is published by Simon & Schuster and you can find out more by clicking HERE.