Me, Antman and our mongrel, Fleabag, like partyin outside. We both come from the bush. Me, I’m a NSW desert girl and Antman’s mob are river people. Cos we aint got no river or desert here in the city, we like sittin in the park yarnin, having a charge, playin country music. We don’t cause no harm.
At one point I was going to be a little cheeky and include Me, Antman & Fleabag as a novella, for Novellas in November. It’s definitely novella length, but in reality it is 22 short, interconnected stories, all featuring anecdotes about the protagonist (Me), Antman & Fleabag their dog, ‘the greatest little mutt ever‘. There is no through plot line or narrative arc, however all the stories are about their family and friends, love of country and being Aboriginal in the modern world. The stories have autobiographical elements, especially the one title ‘Me, Antman and Fleabag hook up’ which details Kennedy’s childhood experience of contracting polio.
In the acknowledgements, Kennedy explains that these stories are shared ones. Her immediate family were the inspiration for most of them and humour is her preferred way to explore some darker themes – the Stolen Generations, everyday racism plus systemic racism, the fate of Aboriginal returned servicemen, not being black enough, police harrassment and the criminal justice system.
“Humour is so important in my writing,” her laughter is contagious, “and with Me, Antman and Fleabag, I wanted to give people a window into our world, the world of Aboriginal people, but I didn’t want to preach. Sometimes people read it a couple of times and realise it’s more political than they first thought. I don’t mind how people translate my work but humour helps people to understand. I also wanted to honour the Aboriginal men in my family through my writing. Too often Aboriginal men get a bad rap. I like to write like I’m telling a yarn.”Source
Kennedy didn’t start writing until she was 51 (around the time that mobility issues made it harder for her to continue working outside the home full-time). In 2005 her first book of poetry Koori Girl Goes Shoppin’ was shortlisted for the David Unaipon Award. The following year, her unpublished manuscript of Me, Antman & Fleabag won the award. She acknowledges her ‘good mates from the Sir William Wallace Hotel‘ in Balmain whose fundraising efforts helped her to stay mobile and ‘live my life‘. Kennedy has published thirteen books, many of them children’s stories – the Yarning Stories series with Oxford University Press – for which she received a Deadly Award nomination.
We used to see Gayle regularly in the bookshop, and it was only as I started reading this that I realised I hadn’t seen her for years. I was relieved to find an interview from last year which explained that working from home has caused her to embrace the night owl life that she has always preferred. Her family and friends know not call or visit before midday. She must be very disappointed to see the William Wallace languishing behind scaffolding for the past few years, apparently abandoned by the new owners mid-renovation.
Kennedy wrote a guest post for the AWW back in 2015 which can be found here. She also wrote an essay for the anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia (2021) edited by Carly Findlay, featuring the stories of 46 people within the disability community.
Gayle Kennedy was born in Ivanhoe NSW. She is a member of the Wongaiibon Clan of the Ngiyaampaa speaking Nation of South West NSW.
Me, Antman & Fleabag is narrated with a strong, unique voice, full of wicked humour with a Slim Dusty soundtrack playing underneath every vignette. A great place for someone new to Indigenous literature to start.
- Winner 2006 Queensland Literary Awards — David Unaipon Award for unpublished Indigenous writer
- Shortlisted 2008 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards — Prize for Indigenous Writing
- Nominated 2008 Deadly Sounds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music, Sport, Entertainment and Community Awards — Outstanding Achievement in Literature
- Read for AusReading Month 2022
Title: Me, Antman & Fleabag Author: Gayle Kennedy ISBN: 9780702236174 Imprint: University Queensland Press Published: 3 September 2007 Format: Paperback Pages: 144 Dates Read: 15 November 2022 -
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.