Girl on the Edge
An Arresting Memoir
This is my story based on my life experience of growing up in an isolated small country town, Coolah, in central west NSW, Australia in the 1980s. This Memoir is written in the first person through a sensitive adolescent lens and personal reflections from me as an adult are embedded in the writing.
As I attempt to make sense of my teenage world, themes such as: self; identity; belonging; alienation; sexual awakening; coming of age; inequality and emotionality are explored as I develop my own social conscious and moral compass. Also the differences between ‘townies’ and ‘graziers’ and the expectations of male and female behaviour are scrutinised within the everyday. I also examine the day-to-day going-ons in my own family, other families, school and the town with watchful eyes and an inquisitive mind.
The plot explores: how I make sense of life and death; construct my personal identity; the effects of my upbringing; navigating a fractious mother-daughter relationship and am void of any sense of belonging within my family, school and the town. My curiosity poses many questions as to why things are as they are, but often remain unanswered.
The Memoir also exposes and examines the prejudices, social mores and unwritten rules that are constructed in this class divided town, why these exist and how they are sustained. Distinctions and similarities between individuals, families and classes are scrutinised often with humour to offset the sadness. My own personal challenges, barriers and adversities to reach my full potential are woven throughout the story with both heartbreaking and liberating consequences.
‘Humour can relieve emotional pain, but only momentarily.’ Kim
But my strength of character, intellect and personal resilience are qualities that triumph towards the end of the story and will resonate with the reader. Even in the face of adversity, and with the odds clearly stacked against me, I carve myself a wonderful life.
I trust aspects of Girl on the Edge will resonate with you.
Director, Australian Writers Network & Program Director, Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival
"This is an arresting memoir of a sensitive adolescent girl growing up in a small and isolated town in regional Australia. The book captures the claustrophobia of life in this community and deftly portrays the simmering resentments that lie beneath the surface of social interactions. Kim Hodges has vividly expressed the psychological horror of a young woman who feels so trapped by her family, her society, her environment, and even her own body, that she is driven to desperate measures.”
Professor Simone FULLAGAR
Department for Health, University of Bath, UK
“Girl on the Edge is a powerful memoir that richly illustrates the struggles of a young woman to experience freedom and pursue desires beyond those prescribed by small town rural Australia. Coming of age in the 1980's, Kim Hodges recounts vivid details of the complexities of family life, class divisions and the microcosm of rural life that silences the voices of young people who feel different. The story recounts the great personal cost that arises from the inability of adults to listen to emotional distress, nurture different identities or challenge everyday issues of inequality. An inspiring read that is poignant and also humorous. Girl on the Edge situates the individual experience of distress and blame in the social milieu that has shaped it."
Dr Lisa MILNER
School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University
“Kim Hodges’ touching memoir renders her tale of growing up in regional Australia with a stark strength. Here is an engrossing account of small town phobias, interests and fears, and how a young woman’s struggle with difference can overcome many obstacles. A must for any reader.”
Leticia WHELAN, born and lives in Sydney
"I've known Kim for over 20 years, andthought I had insight into her experiences. In reading these reflections I have learned so much more about this incredibly brave and insightful woman. Her story is one that will touch many I am sure."
Dr Lisa MILNE, Lives in Melbourne
"This memoir takes part of its strength from the interleaving of the deeply personal and the broader social conditions of life in small town rural Australia during the era it encompasses. It is in turns funny, sad and uplifting. An excellent read."
Heather COUTS, born in Adelaide, lives in Bellingen
"Kim draws us into the experiences of her youth by including everyday details that vividly evoke a special time and place. We're also drawn into her personal world. It's the intimate first-hand accounts like this one that most profoundly underscore the link between mental and emotional well being and the role of community and family."
Julie SMITH, born in Sydney, lives in Middle Boambee
"As I read Kim's memoir in my bed at night I was unable to put it down. It resonated with me on many levels....growing up in Australia at that time I clearly got what Kim was about. Even though I lived in the western suburbs of Sydney, the start of the immigration from war torn zones saw different cultures trying to co-exist together. Kim's book and her observations were very similar to the way I felt back in the late 70's and early 80's as I tried to understand and piece together the world I was living in. Kim's observations made me laugh out loud and also brought tears of sadness with the rawness of her ordeals."
Robyn BELL, born in New Zealand, lives in Sydney
"Kim has captured life in a small country town with events that may sound distant to her city-slicker friends. Parts of her story however may resonate with some. GIRL ON THE EDGE is a gripping memoir of disturbing proportions for one so young. Articulately written with a sense of desperation. I wish Kim every success this book may open for her."
“It took two minutes and thirty-five seconds to drive from the sixty kilometre sign to the next one hundred kilometre speed limit sign, travelling at sixty kilometres an hour. I knew that because as a child I had begged for my parents to measure it. Later, as a teenager driving in a friend’s car, we would measure it again to pass the time. You passed through the town in a long blink of an eyelid.”
Chapter 4: Township of Coolah
“Six months later, our family prepared for the imminent arrival of our house. My parents had bought a prefabricated, transportable house and I was ecstatic as the date approached. On the day our house left the depot and was en route, our entire family arrived early at our block. My mother and father were both busily bent down, removing any last weeds. I soaked up the euphoric state emanating from both of my parents, on the same day, at the same time. This was a rarity.”
Chapter 2: Our Spot on the Map
“I walked away thinking about how I had never really known my grandmother. My brothers and I had never referred to her as anything, not even an endearing grandmother name, such as gran, grandma, nanna or nan. If we addressed her, what had we called her? Nothing, I realised. She was nameless. We were never given a name to use and we had never chose one. I had hugged her, listened to her, examined her and engaged in short conversations with her, but I had never called her anything.”
Chapter 17: Developing a social conscience
“Bert would sometimes pull a cart that Dale sat in, while they collected scraps and rubbish from around the town. The duo often went to the council tip to fossick. Hours later, they would return, with Dale proudly sitting up high in the cart, perched on top of their claims, inevitably destined to further reducing the visibility of the grass in their backyard. Conny sometimes wore a pair of pyjamas with bright, swirling patterns of pinks and blues on her main street outings. She was mad, but harmless, I was told.”
Chapter 18: Poverty, Wealth and Difference