Victoria Hannan was the winner of the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Kokomo is her debut novel.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is a set of questions I ask myself. What can I do, how I can make things better for all women (but specifically BIPOC and trans women)? Which doors can I help open or hold open for others? Whose voices need to be listened to and amplified above my own?
Truth-telling is at the heart of Kokomo – how is this important on a societal, as well as personal, level?
Kokomo is the story of a fractured relationship between a mother and daughter and the inter-generational effects of keeping secrets and telling lies (not just to others but to ourselves). But I think it’s as much about the truths we choose to believe as the lies we’re told.
Our society is very good at conveniently forgetting or re-moulding the history of our country. By erasing this past, we’re erasing the trauma and experiences of so many people. It’s dehumanising. Societal truth-telling means recognising the impact colonisation has had and is still having on so many people. It’s essential.
On an inter-personal level, I don’t know that the truth is always the best option. Not that I condone lying, of course, but does the whole truth need to be told if the only outcome is other people being hurt? Especially if you’re just telling the truth to unburden yourself or relieve your own guilt.
Lately, I’ve been trying to interrogate and challenge some of my own beliefs. To understand where they’ve come from and how they can be damaging to both myself and others.
Kokomo paints a devastating portrait of a mother-daughter relationship wrought – what do you think makes this dynamic so universal and yet so difficult to address?
In Kokomo, the relationship between the main character Mina and her mother Elaine becomes fractured after the death of a loved one. In a sea of grief and guilt, Elaine turns inward and locks herself away, while Mina’s coping mechanism is to distance herself from her mother and move overseas.
Grief is such a complex and multi-faceted beast. There are so many different ways it manifests that it can be hard to even realise that your sadness, your irritability, your denial, bargaining, numbness, inability to sleep or focus or experience joy – just to name a few – are related to grief at all. Especially when grief is so often associated with death that it can be easy to forget that we can be mourning all sorts of things.
I think these feelings are particularly pertinent and relatable right now as we’re all having to re-imagine what the future looks like while mourning things we’ve lost or missed out on.
Could you share some feminist recommendations; which authors/books are you reading, listening to, following right now?
I saw Aileen Moreton-Robinson speak last year and it’s really made me re-consider how I want to be in the world. Talkin’ Up to the White Woman was published twenty years ago and couldn’t be more relevant today.
Photo credit: Elize Strydom