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About the  Book

About the Book

Two remarkable women tell an inspirational story about

the power of family and pursuing your dreams.


Lesley Williams is forced to leave Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement and her family at a young age to work as a domestic servant. Apart from a bit of pocket money, Lesley never sees her wages – they are kept ‘safe’ for her and for countless others just like her. She is taught not to question her life, until desperation makes her start to wonder, where is all that money she earned?


So begins a nine-year journey for answers which will test every ounce of her resolve.


Inspired by her mother’s quest, a teenage Tammy Williams enters a national writing competition with an essay about injustice. The winning prize takes Tammy and Lesley to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and ultimately to the United Nations in Geneva.


Along the way, they find courage they never thought they had and friendship in the most unexpected places.


Told with honesty and humour, Not Just Black and White is an extraordinary memoir about two women determined to make sure history is not forgotten.

The Writing Process

How the book came about

Lesley and Tammy discuss how the unique writing style of their award-winning memoir - Not Just Black and White: a conversation between a mother and daughter - came about.


It was Lesley’s idea to write her life story.  However she found this difficult for a number of reasons: her limited formal education and belonging to a generation of Aboriginal people who prefer oral storytelling as opposed to capturing it in the written form.  


Lesley writes in the Preface:


‘When I first got the big idea in 1993 to ‘write a book’ about my life and the missing wages and savings, I found it difficult to even string two sentences together.  The limited education I received as a child made the task seem near impossible.  Although I knew what I wanted to say, I’d always clam up whenever it came time to put pen to paper. Therefore, in the early days, to tell my story I first had to say it, speaking into a tape recorder.   My daughter Tammy, who was all but a teenager, began transcribing all the words, and helped to make sense out of the jumble.’


Although Tammy started out as Lesley’s ghost author, it soon became clear that her life journey was entwined in her mother’s.  Lesley then suggested to Tammy that she should also set down her memories on paper, and this is how the style of a memoir, written in two voices emerged.  Unlike most memoirs that tend to be written from one point of view, Not Just Black and White has a second story and perspective (that of a child) woven throughout.  The result is a lively duet, told in the distinct voices of a mother and her daughter, who have shaped one another’s lives.  


Tammy explains:


‘The unique structure of the book reflects in many ways, our relationship.  We have always had a close ‘mother-daughter’ bond and much of what we have achieved in life would not have been possible without the support from the other.  So it seemed only natural to collaborate on this book, though it wasn’t always easy!


Aside from the technical difficulties we experienced trying to get the different voices right without it overshadowing the story, there were the obvious challenges that come with working closely – while living together - for such a long time.  Nonetheless we persevered and worked through these challenges because we believed in the story and importance of sharing it with others.’


Not Just Black and White is an extraordinary memoir about two women, striving for equality and determined to make sure history is not forgotten.

The Writing Process
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