The Archipelago of Us
Five years after first living in the Indian Ocean Territories, Reneé Pettitt-Schipp finds herself returning, haunted by memories of the asylum seekers she taught there in Australia’s detention system. Why do the islands still have a hold on her? Why are her memories such troubled ones? And why can she not let go?
Closer to Indonesia than Australia, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are out of sight and out of mind to most Australians, but they are the sites of some of our frontier wars, the places where our identity is laid bare in all its flawed complexity – and the places where there is time and space enough to ask: can we be better than this?
A travel narrative, a memoir and a thought-provoking look at Australia’s complicated history with Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the asylum seekers detained there.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
‘The Archipelago of Us is a travel narrative, a memoir, and an impressively researched history of a place too often overlooked.’ Weekend Australian
‘A powerful expose of mistreatment of refugees within Australian immigration centres, The Archipelago of Us brings the reader past the “huge curls of razor wire gleaming in the sun” of North West Point Immigration Centre, to meet the men inside.’ ABC Perth Mornings
‘Sensitive and subtle, superbly evocative, vivid and arresting in its attention to detail in descriptions of place and the human and more-than-human worlds of the islands.’ David Carlin
‘Profound, beautifully written, and conveying an immediacy, a sense of being there physically and emotionally. Difficult subject matter handled with empathy.’ Amanda Curtin
‘Absolutely masterful and incredibly powerful. It demanded a lot of its reader, but also offered a world that was delicate, precise and achingly human.’ Catherine Noske
‘This book is carefully crafted, thought-provoking and enlightening … The Archipelago Of Us is a must-read for general readers and anyone interested in Australian national identity, politics, humanitarian issues and social justice. Five Stars!’ Australian Rural & Regional News
‘In impressive detail that shows a great depth of research, Pettitt-Schipp looks at the histories of the islands … The Archipelago of Us takes us on a fascinating trip across Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, while revealing the dark reality of Australia’s asylum seeker policies. It will make readers question the concept of Australian identity and the idea of a ‘fair go.” Books + Publishing
‘A deeply reflective and thought-provoking look at Australia’s complicated history with Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the asylum seekers Australia detained there.’ Fremantle Shipping News
‘Deeply felt and highly researched, her first book of non-fiction follows as the WA writer returns to her former home to reckon with the islands’ past and present, and her experiences there — which, she says, “deeply unsettled what I believed about my country and, in turn, how I see my place within it”.’ West Weekend Play Magazine
‘Once interviews with various island residents are underway, the book finds its rhythm. Christmas Island is typically viewed in terms of its remoteness from the mainland; the book’s own blurb describes it as ‘out of sight and out of mind’. But it is also its own place, and so it’s refreshing that Pettitt-Schipp centres the voices of locals, for whom the island is home.’ Adele Dumont, Mascara Literary Review