In Wiradjuri the word for “yield” is baayanha. But as the reader learns throughout this book, translation is far from simple. “Yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land, the thing he’s waited for and gets to claim,” Poppy Gondiwindi writes. In Wiradjuri, “it’s the things you give to, the movement, the space between things”. This is a novel full of the spaces in between. Much of the brutality is revealed glancingly: we learn, for instance, that Poppy and his sister were separated, taken to live in institutions designed to sever them from their cultures, but the reader must imagine the true cost of that for herself. Yet when August and her aunt Missy visit a museum exhibition of Aboriginal “artefacts”, Missy’s rage is blunt. “They should work out how many of us they murdered and have a museum of tanks of blood,” she says.
The line has all the more power to shock because Winch has built her novel with subtlety and strength. This is a complex, satisfying book, both story and testimony. The Yield works to reclaim a history that never should have been lost in the first place.