I just wanted to know whether I should bother chasing my dream of becoming a famous painter, or whether I should just give up and build a safe and practical life. But on my quest to discover my fate before it was due to arrive, I found myself inter-twisted with the destiny of a high end art thief, and the colourful, terrifying truth of a life worth painting…
ACCOMPANYING MUSIC ALBUM
Ms Lacklustre was silent, then she sighed. “Inka, look. It really is time you grew up and thought practically about securing your future. You should be more concerned about finding a husband on Friday, to be perfectly honest.”
“I don’t believe in love.”
“Well, you’d better believe in living in squalor then, darling, because I can guarantee you are not going to get accepted into teachers’ school with no parents to pay for it. We all know you will be a wonderful weaver, Inka, but the wages at the factory aren’t enough to provide for a proper life. The rest of the girls pay to be here, Inka. You don’t realise how lucky you are. This school has prepared you to become, potentially, the wife of a wealthy man. One day you’ll see the benefits, and you’ll thank me.” She turned to leave the room, then paused, fished out some lipstick from her pocket, and slapped it on the dressing table. “Keep it, and apply it generously.”
Smiling at me, she left the room.
I slumped onto my bed. I was even more doomed than I had originally thought. Couldn’t even survive on a weaver’s wage. Too weird to be looked at.
Habadash was renowned for its exportation of the finest fabrics and materials. People came from all over the world for the cloth and clothing produced in the country, and mainly in the capital, Thyme. The silk patterns were sent from Thyme to our factory out here in Pure, where we made the bulk of the silk work. I didn’t know much about the history of Habadash and its fabrics, but I bet it was dreary.
Radha picked up my journal, putting it on my lap as she sat down beside me. “Inka, I know you want to find out what’s going to happen to you, but have you thought about … well, have you thought about what would happen if you hear something you would rather not know?”
“Like what?” I didn’t look up at her.
“Like … what if you find out that you will end up old and lonely? What if the psychic tells you about your parents? What if he says they just didn’t want you? Aren’t there some things you just don’t want to know?”
I crawled up to my bed without answering her or saying a word to anyone else.
A LITERARY HISTORIAN'S VIEWPOINT
Dr Josey De Rossi, B.A. Dip.Ed (UWA) PhD (USYD)
Clare’s Past Life Library is a collection of multimedia texts for young readers. In them, Clare creates an interplay between the typed-text, free-hand annotations, stunning collages, illustrations and songs. Each medium adds to the narrative experience. It's magic realism on the page.
As a historian, I understand why journals and diaries are vital documents. I love the genre, personally. I am moved by powerful personal narratives that allow me to witness real events first hand: Anne Frank in the attic, hiding from the brutal Nazis or standing with Samuel Pepys on the Southbank watching the Great Fire of London.
I'm glad there's a flourishing of fictional journals for young readers too. Just go to Goodread's LISTOPIA on 'Diaries and Journals in Children’s Literature' and see just how many titles are listed: Jeff Kinny’s Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, Florida Frenz’s How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, to name just a few.
Past Life Library totally immerses me in its first-person storytelling and truth-seeking. The series of five journals passionately work every element of the genre to bring to life the stories of five gutsy heroines. Like heroines before them, they all have something to prove: in Eternal Inka, Inka needs to claim her talent as an artist; in Everlasting Charli, Charli looks for a place to call home; in Infinite Aisa, Aisa yearns to understand what it means to be loved; in Forever Raphaella, Raphaella learns to outwit her worst enemy and Rose dares to love life and be ‘Always Rose’.
Unlike the journals on Listopia, however, there are things about Past Life Library journals that make them surprisingly unconventional. For one thing, each journal is created around a single life that is lived through five different lifetimes. For Clare, five lifetimes means owning the magic of shaping-shifting. The inscription of ‘Same Eyes. Same Voice. Same Handwriting’ appears at the opening of every journal, calling her young readers to transform another person onto another life: five adventures, five families, five locations, each girl leading with her own destiny towards another.
Another fact about the journals is how 'the hero's journey' is changed into the adventures of strong girls going about women's work. The would-be painter, Inka, weaves her own canvases; Charli, a seasoned waitress, learns about the changing nature of relationships in a topsy-turvy restaurant; Aisa, a rising star, learns the lessons of fame-over-vengeance-over-family loyalty and the young witch, Raphaella, overcomes her own violent mistakes to find the possibility of starting again. Their worlds of Habadash, Hallowishes, Harlow and Ashterwinkle celebrate the girls' coming of age. Their stories all exist on the edge of disasters. What pulls them back from catastrophes are their down-to-earth heroines and the comic antics of the many larger-than-life characters around them, like the fortune-teller Magda Gaska, who ends up baffling Inka with his predictions!
The mixture of earthy heroine and curious situations is something Clare’s journal-making process makes real through the talents of her friends: media artists, Yongho Moon and designer Francis Lim of Futureinform, and musician, Dazatah. Together, they create an interplay between the typed text, free-hand annotations, stunning collages, illustrations and songs. Each medium adds to the narrative experience. It's magic realism on the page.
The result is a first-person narrative which is built upon a yearning to learn about yourself in relation to others. Collectively, then, the journals testify to what binds us to each other as we co-create the meaning of our lives, as we dare to make our adventures resonate with wit and laughter. It is only after finishing each book that you acknowledge the girls' difficult journeys, full of mistakes and dangerous twists and turns. In this way, Clare shows that heroic girls are not the exception to the rule, but girls who claim the right to be themselves. They live through the strength of their imagination, seeking answers & creating full lives.