Book Review: “Becoming Aurora” by Elizabeth Kasmer (#AWW2017 #LoveOzYA @UQPbooks @ReadingsBooks)


Elizabeth Kasmer’s Becoming Aurora (University of Queensland Press, 2016) is one of six titles shortlisted for the inaugural Readings Young Adult Book Prize, which celebrates emerging voices in Australian youth literature. It won the 2015 Queensland Literary Awards, Emerging Writer Category.

The details are never revealed, but 16-year-old Rory Morris is proud of taking the blame for the racially motivated crime that her gang committed against the local Indian restaurant. Sentenced to spend her summer holidays doing community service at an aged care facility, she befriends ex-boxing champion Jake Sanford and, through him, migrant boxer Essam.

In Becoming Aurora, Rory is portrayed as a strong-willed girl who enjoys reading and looking after her family. She is reluctant to properly channel her grief over the death of her father, who gave her the name Aurora. This leads to the confusion that revealing her true feelings means admitting to her vulnerability and being a burden to others.

The girl’s journey from self-proclaimed Rory back to true Aurora requires her to experience how a victim of unjust treatment would feel and act. Without the privileges she has long enjoyed as a middle-class white person, she begins to see migrants and refugees with different eyes. She gets to learn, for the first time, the beauty of those who remain dignified and faithful while enduring unspeakable hardship. It is through her eyes that we discover human resilience and their capacity to keep on fighting.

In Becoming Aurora, there is a strong sense of community when the lives of migrants and refugees are depicted. With that said, the individuals that the author has chosen to epitomise the social and cultural characteristics of their respective ethnic groups – including members of our mainstream society – are rather one-dimensional, and the whole book is held together more by an extraordinary story than a group of unique and memorable characters. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the author’s acknowledgement at the end of the book of the UQP’s editorial decision to put the “Becoming” in Becoming Aurora. With guidance from experts, a book can indeed stand out a little bit more than usual.

You can find more information about Elizabeth Kasmer’s Becoming Aurora here and here.


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