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Book Review :: Personal Score by Ellen van Neerven

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity, a stunning collection of 47 essays and poems by award-winning Brisbane, Australia, based Aboriginal-Dutch writer Ellen van Neerven, straddles the line between personal reflection and political polemic. The nonbinary author’s reach is broad and the diverse pieces in the anthology touch on the importance of athletics in the social and physical development of girls; the sexual harassment and abuse that often derail the participation of female players; the massive fires, brutal storms, and dislocation that have been caused by ever-worsening climate change; and the persistence of racism against indigenous and other people of color.

The anthology also includes a searing indictment of anti-trans bigotry and zeroes in on the sidelining of Native knowledge about plants, animals, and land management by so-called scientific “experts.” In addition, colonialism is effectively denounced. Lastly, the book offers a moving analysis of illness and addresses the ways disability impacts their ability to write, participate in social justice movements, and socialize with family, friends, and colleagues.

By turns angry, mournful, moving, and persuasive, Personal Score reminds us of a foundational First Nation belief: “Only two relationships matter in the world, relationship with land and relationship with people.” van Neerven beautifully honors both.

Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity by Ellen van Neerven. Two Dollar Radio, April 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.