Winner of the 2018 Stella Prize
Alexis Wright returns to non-fiction in her new book, a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth, who died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.
Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.
Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them. Having known him for many years, Alexis Wright interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together in a manner reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize–winning author Svetlana Alexievich. The book is as much a testament to the powerful role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of an extraordinary man.
Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek, and the novels Plains of Promise, The Swan Book and Carpentaria, which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian and Queensland Premiers’ Literary Awards, and the ALS Gold Medal, and was published in the US, UK, China, Italy, France, Spain and Poland. She is currently the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.
In this remarkable biography, Alexis Wright follows an Aboriginal tradition of storytelling that she describes as a ‘practice for crossing landscapes and boundaries, giving many voices a part in the story’. Tracker is a collective memoir of Tracker Tilmouth, charismatic Aboriginal leader, thinker, entrepreneur, visionary and provocateur. Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles including Director of the Central Land Council. This unique, majestic biography has been composed by Wright from interviews with family, friends, foes and Tilmouth himself. It is one man’s story told by many voices, almost operatic in scale. With a tight narrative structure, compelling real-life characters, the book sings with insight and Tracker’s unique humour. Wright has crafted an epic that is a truly rewarding read.
‘A demonstration of the power of oral and collective storytelling…It’s not just Tracker’s story, but a life interwoven with the story of the stolen generations, Aboriginal activism, Australian politics, and the culmination of tens of thousands of years of culture and connection to land.’ Alex Gerrans, The Guardian
‘It paints a vision of action and possibility for this continent that makes it required reading for all Australians and all those interested in this land.’ Jane Gleeson-White, The Sydney Morning Herald
‘The nuanced portrait of Tracker that emerges from these collected fragments reveals the impact he made on so many lives. This is a landmark work – epic in its scope and empathy.’ Bronte Coates, Readings