Swallow the Air

by

Tara June Winch

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Queensland Press edition of Swallow the Air published in 2006.
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1. Swallow the Air Quotes

I thought about Mum’s pain being freed from her wrists, leaving her body, or what was left […] And I knew it was all right not to forget.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
4. My Bleeding Palm Quotes

Paradise Parade, built over the old Paradise Abattoir, bore two long rows of housing commission flats, unregistered cars, busted prams and echoes of broken dreams, all crammed into our own special section of Woonona Beach. Paradise, ha!

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Housing Projects
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Soon they’d demolish all the fibro and move us mob out to the western suburbs. For now we were to be satisfied with the elitist postcode and our anonymity.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Housing Projects
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
5. Bushfire Quotes

It is their land, Mum would say, so we have to help look after it for them in exchange for our staying here. Be respectful, she’d say.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
6. Leaving Paradise Quotes

Billy and me were like shadows; we could merge into the walls without being noticed. We’d move on the same tides; when we were laughing we couldn’t stop each other, when we were talking neither of us could get a word in, when we were fishing, being sad, or being silent, we were both empty cups.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Billy Gibson
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
7. To Run Quotes

If you could be any fruit what would you be? I would be the mango that breaks off the stem into my dad’s fingers, the apple of his eye before I slide into the picking bag.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Dad
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
8. Territory Quotes

My old man isn’t though; his family are from the First Fleet and everything. Rich folk they were, fancy folk from England.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Dad, Pete
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

A jawbone crunches under a slice of bare knuckles. Bloodied eyeballs throw blank expressions. Mouths fling spittle streamers about the dirt red ring. Frantic, finger-bitten punches claw tangled in the shiny skin.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Dad, Pete
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

I remembered now, when that anger face became his always face and the world ceased to be real, to be able to be understood, so I had left it behind. I couldn’t remember the endings to the memories of him. But here they were laid bare—the bones of him that I had hidden.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Dad
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

The screams must have been so deafening, the river of tears so overflowing that the current could only steal her. The flood breaking so high, that she had to leave us behind. We couldn’t swim either.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum, Dad
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
9. The Block Quotes

I didn’t see the color that everyone else saw, some saw different shades—black, and brown, white. I saw me, May Gibson with one eye a little bigger than the other. I felt Aboriginal because Mum had made me proud to be […] but when Mum left, I stopped being Aboriginal.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

She told me about the history of Redfern, about the housing corporation stealing everyone’s money and homes, about how it used to be a real strong community. “And now,” she says shaking her head, “it’s the young fellas taking our money as well and the drugs stealing our community.”

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Joyce / The Old Woman (speaker)
Related Symbols: Housing Projects
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

“May, you got people that you gotta find, things you gotta learn. You will learn them ere, but I don’t want you to. Luck at Justine, smack the only thing teachin her now!”

Related Characters: Joyce / The Old Woman (speaker), May Gibson, Justine
Related Symbols: Housing Projects
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
10. Chocolate Quotes

He’d never tell you about Africa, and I never asked. It was his secret—his past, that someday, revisited, would become his home again. He never asked me where I was from either—it was an unspoken understanding.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Charlie
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
11. Wantok Quotes

He takes my hand like always and we scramble up the palms and hack down coconuts with a machete, we run down to the rocky beaches and cast off our canoe, we fish all day, following the reefs and tides and winds […] We rest in the houses as warm tropical storms light up the bruised sky.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Johnny
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
12. Painted Dreaming Quotes

The sky showing the journey the waters make, the tracks, the beds balancing liquid from cloud to crevasse. Follow the leatherback turtle through tide, the waterbirds fly between currents. I knew I had to get out of the city, get out of the boxes they put you in.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
13. Mapping Waterglass Quotes

Mum’s stories would always come back to this place, to the lake, where all Wiradjuri would stop to drink. Footprints of your ancestors, she’d say, one day I’ll take you there.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
14. Just Dust Quotes

Issy says they don’t understand that just because you can’t see something, don’t mean it’s not there. She says that under the earth, the land we stand on, under all this is water. She says that our people are born from quartz crystal, hard water. We are powerful people, strong people.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Issy
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
18. Country Quotes

There is a big missing hole between this place and the place you’re looking for. That place, that people, that something you’re looking for. It’s gone. It was taken away. We weren’t told, love; we weren’t allowed to be Aboriginal.

Related Characters: Percy Gibson (speaker), May Gibson
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

This land is belonging, all of it for all of us. This river is that ocean, these clouds are that lake, these tears are not only my own. They belong to the whales, to Joyce […] they belong to the spirits. To people I will never even know. I give them to my mother.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum, Joyce / The Old Woman
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
20. Home Quotes

My mother knows that I am home, at the water I am always home. Aunty and my brother, we are from the same people, we are of the Wiradjuri nation, hard water. We are of the river country, and we have flowed down the rivers to estuaries to oceans.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Mum, Billy Gibson, Aunty
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

An excavator starts its smothering engine over the torrent of each barrel. Over the sun. Over the blue. And I wonder, if we stand here, if we stay, if they stop digging up Aunty’s backyard, stop digging up a mother’s memory, stop digging up our people, maybe then, we’ll all stop crying.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Aunty
Related Symbols: Housing Projects
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.