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A century after a rural Western Australian massacre, a group of Noongar people are invited back by an elderly farmer to the land where it happened.

“In this potent, ghostly book, Scott, part of the Noongar people of Western Australia, tells what happens when a group of Noongar return to the site of a massacre which followed the killing of a white man for kidnapping a black woman. The book wrestles with the haunt of history, and poetry lives on each page. ‘Now his own house was haunted, and he was glad.’ In the taboo farmland, the group reckon with language and connection, and what reconciling with the past means for the present. They face the way the history and its sins live on, and how rebirth demands destruction. ‘Death is only one part of a story that is forever beginning,’ Scott writes.”
— Nina McLaughlin, Boston Globe

From Kim Scott, two-times winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, comes a haunting yet optimistic novel charged with ambition and poetry, in equal parts brutal, mysterious and idealistic, about a young woman cast into a drama that has been playing for over two hundred years . . .

Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar’s descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife’s dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.

But the sins of the past will not be so easily expunged.

We walk with the ragtag group through this taboo country and note in them glimmers of re-connection with language, lore, country. We learn alongside them how countless generations of Noongar may have lived in ideal rapport with the land. Taboo won four literary awards, was longlisted for four and shortlisted for three more. It is a novel of survival and renewal, as much as destruction; and, ultimately, of hope as much as despair.



“Deeply acclaimed upon its initial release in Australia, Kim Scott’s novel Taboo follows a group of characters revisiting the site of several acts of historical violence. In doing so, Scott charts the complexities of pain, forgiveness, and the sins of the past—often in harrowing ways.”
— Vol. 1, Brooklyn

“In this assured, complex novel, Scott (True Country) delves into the fraught history of race relations in Western Australia. . . .  Scott’s novel memorably describes this dramatic resurrection and the enduring power of ancestral traditions.”
Publishers Weekly

“A teenage girl and her extended family return to the site of a centuries-old massacre of Aboriginal people. Kepalup is a small town in Western Australia with a dark history. In the 19th century, a white man was killed by an Aboriginal man, and his family retaliated by murdering scores of Aboriginal people. Recently widowed Dan Horton still lives on the land where his ancestor was killed; now, he’s invited the descendants of the Aboriginal people who died at the site to visit even though their culture labels the place as taboo. To Dan’s surprise, one of the people among the group who’s accepted the invitation is Tilly Smith, who was briefly his foster child until she was returned to her birth mother. That’s the only parent Tilly has known until she was summoned out of the blue by an inmate in a nearby prison, who happens to be her real father. An Aboriginal person of Noongar ancestry, Tilly’s father has turned over a new leaf from his former violence and drug addiction and is teaching fellow inmates the old language and customs. But along with meeting her dad and being introduced to a new culture and extended family, Tilly is introduced to some of his unsavory associates. When Tilly shows up in Kepalup with her relatives, she bears a number of dark secrets that threaten to collide with the largest darkness of all: the loss and generational trauma borne by her people. Scott (That Deadman Dance, 2010, etc.) has created a shadowy and elliptical story, but it is not as hopeless as it sometimes feels: Tilly is a survivor, and though her Aboriginal culture is not a perfect salvation, it nevertheless provides her with a touchstone in the chaos.”
Kirkus Reviews

“If Benang was the great novel of the assimilation system, and That Deadman Dance redefined the frontier novel in Australian writing, Taboo makes a strong case to be the novel that will help clarify — in the way that only literature can — what reconciliation might mean.” — Australian Book Review

“Scott’s book is stunning — haunted and powerful . . . Verdict: Must Read.” — Herald Sun

“Remarkable.” — Stephen Romei, Weekend Australian

“Stunning prose.” — Saturday Paper

This is a complex, thoughtful, and exceptionally generous offering by a master storyteller at the top of his game.” — The Guardian

“Undaunted, and daring as ever Scott goes back to his ancestral Noongar country in Western Australia’s Great Southern region; back in time as well to killings (or a massacre, the point is contested) of whites and Aborigines there in 1880. . . Taboo never becomes a revenge story, whether for distant or recent wrongs . . . The politics of Taboo — not to presume or simplify too much — are quietist, rather than radical. Ambitious, unsentimental [and] morally challenging.” — Sydney Morning Herald

“Scott is one of the most thoughtful, exciting and powerful storytellers of this continent today, with great courage and formidable narrative prowess- and Taboo is his most daring novel yet.” — Sydney Review of Books

About the Author

Kim Scott is a multi-award winning novelist. Benang was the first novel by an Indigenous writer to win the Miles Franklin Award and That Deadman Dance also won Australia’s premier literary prize, among many others. Proud to be one among those who call themselves Noongar, Kim is founder and chair of the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Story Project, which has published a number of bilingual picture books. A Companion to the Works of Kim Scott deals with aspects of his career in education and literature. He received an Australian Centenary Medal and was 2012 West Australian of the Year. Kim is currently Professor of Writing in the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts at Curtin University.

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