Who is the intended audience [for The Family Made of Dust]?
Answer: Suspense thriller readers and readers interested in social justice.
What is the book about?
When Gabriel Branch, a biracial Aborigine, searches the outback for his best friend, he is stalked by a Pitjantjatjara shaman. Gabe must find the truth about his friend and about the Aboriginal heritage he lost long ago. This literary suspense thriller has won two national awards. It reveals the tragedy of a government policy intended to wipe out an entire race within three generations.
Why are you the best person to write this book?
As an author, I strive to create literature that bridges divisions of nationality, race, class, religion, gender and age. Books that show readers the emotional lives of individuals from other cultures, socioeconomic levels and subcultures open a safe passage for exploration. Our global society makes this type of work more important now than ever before.
My knowledge of Australia and its diverse cultures is based in part on a sabbatical I took some years ago. For six months I drove around the outback in a twenty-year-old Ford sedan, camping and hiking with dingoes as my sole companions. My work has been supported by the Vermont Studio Center, the Jerome Foundation, the New York Mills Cultural Center, the Cornucopia Arts Center and Wildacres.
How is this book different from other books on this topic?
Really, there are no other novels by American authors that show readers the trauma suffered by Australia’s so-called Stolen Generation. Although Baz Luhrmann’s recent epic Australia and documentaries like Rabbit-proof Fence touch on the issue, the films don’t delve into the psychological impact the way a book can.
Is there anything else we should know about this book?
This book won the Hackney Literary Award. The committee said, “One of the best novels in ten years of running this contest." The award places Cunningham in the ranks of Pulitzer Prize winning authors like William Styron and Horton Foote.
The book also won the James Jones Literary Society contest because it mirrors the “spirit of unblinking honesty” for which author James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and Thin Red Line, was known.
Garrison Somers, Editor-in-Chief of The Blotter literary magazine, said, “Ms. Cunningham shows an Australia beautiful and brutal. You know it isn’t going to be a gentle ride but you’re still not expecting to be kicked out of your seat onto the desert floor, rolling to a stop in the sharp-as-glass spinifex. Don’t be surprised when you want to put it down but can’t.”