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Goldie Goldbloom says she likes the dark. Born in
sun-drenched Western Australia and brought up in
Perth s sparkling seaside suburbs, it s the dark corners of
the mind -- grief, madness, intolerance and the murky
undercurrents that swirl through relationships -- that she
likes to explore in her writing.
Her extraordinary debut novel The Paperbark Shoe (Fremantle Press)
features an albino woman, Gin, plucked from an asylum by the small and ugly
Toad. From there she s taken to a rundown farm amid the harsh bush and
small town prejudices of Wyalkatchem in WA s Wheatbelt. It is 1944 and the
drama unfolds as two Italian prisoners of war come to work on the property.
It s a fascinating, disturbing, but beautifully written account of the effect
of being "other" in a small community. Peopled with startling characters, it is
also a haunting window into one woman s unravelling mind.
Published in the US under the title Toad s Museum of Freaks and Wonders,
the book won the 2008 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)
Award Series in the Novel as a manuscript.
And it s making its mark on WA readers as well. They flocked to Goldie s
sessions at the Perth Writers Festival, fascinated by her take on the Gothic
novel and evocation of "freaks and misfits".
Born in Subiaco, Goldie and her brother lived with their mother in various
houses around Scarborough, Floreat, City Beach and Nedlands and she went
to Loretto and John XXIII College. After a year on exchange in Helsinki in
the early 1980s, she went to university in Melbourne.
These days she hails from Chicago and it s not hard to surmise that there s
possibly a little of the misfit in Goldie herself. She s an observant Hasidic Jew,
gay and the mother of eight children aged between seven and 20.
Dressed in long skirt and sleeves, her hair now cropped very short, she s
unwilling to reveal too much about herself but there is something about her
that seems to delight in her idiosyncrasies and in confounding expectations.
A schoolteacher, she also has two theology degrees and has also studied
many other subjects, including botany and midwifery.
She s now studying for a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. The owner
of 27 sewing machines, Goldie is also a prodigious seamstress and costumier,
having supported herself through her theological studies by making wedding
dresses. "I like making things," she says. "I like making things out of nothing,
taking bits and pieces," she adds.
She s not keen to go into the details of how she came to be living in Chicago,
but says she loves it because, even though the weather is "crappy, in every
season". After 15 years there, it s Chicago where she s made her dearest friends.
In spite of the harrowing portrait of motherhood portrayed in her novel,
Goldie paints a cheerful picture of her life in a four-storey house in Chicago
with children and their friends coming and going, a basement full of sewing
machines, and a mountain of black school socks that never seem to get paired.
Her house is a "disaster", she says, smiling, but she does try to make sure
she spends a few minutes a day one-on-one with each of her children, who she
also wants to be free thinkers. A prolific writer, Goldie will squeeze writing
Goldie Goldbloom's extraordinary novel The
Paperbark Shoe has brought the world's attention
to this unusual woman -- and the WA Wheatbelt
town that captured her imagination. text danielle benda
GOTHIC TALE: Goldie Goldbloom's quirky,
haunting debut novel is set on a rundown farm.
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