I’m absolutely thrilled to announce the arrival of Hard As- My Life as an Orphan Boy, by my friend Bryan Hartas. For many years now I’ve been working at Lotus Place running creative writing classes for Forgotten Australians – those who suffered abuse in institutions and out of home care when they were children. From the start I knew Bryan had to tell his story. He was always talking about it, and had been disappointed by an earlier attempt by someone else who had changed things when writing his story down. It wasn’t his voice, it wasn’t the way he told it. I offered to help.
That was about five years ago, which is why I’m so very happy to now have this proper book, in Bryan’s own words, to share with the world. Like most Forgotten Australians, Bryan received very little education in the institutions he was sent to after his father killed his mother. In those days, children sent to orphanages were maltreated in the most appalling ways, and only prepared for a life of hard labour. They were put to work as soon as they could hold a scrubbing brush, and most of their work, either in the institution or on the farms where they were sent, was, and still remains, unpaid.
Bryan and I sat together every week, over many years, and as he told me his stories, I frantically scribed for him – recording as much as possible, his own unique voice. He’s quite a story teller. I encouraged him to search for moments of joy within all the pain, to find some light in the darkness, so we have moments of happiness, like when he caught enough fish to take back and feed everyone for dinner, alongside the trauma of his daily beatings and loneliness.
The Forgotten Australians I work with are the survivors, many of those they were with in the orphanages have already died, or ended their lives in prisons or other institutions. I am privileged to know those who have not just survived but chosen to seek out support and healing through creativity. They are the best people I know, with the biggest most beautiful hearts.
Bryan’s story is one of resilience despite all odds. I am so happy that I’ve been able to make his lifelong dream of having his story seen and heard, as a proper book (after having spent so many years with the shame of illiteracy), in his own voice, in his own words. This would not have been possible without the support of Lotus Place, Micah Projects, the Alliance for Forgotten Australians and AndAlso Books.
We are planning a launch at Avid Reader Bookstore for late January, after Bryan’s birthday. I’ll keep you posted. A few pre-release copies are available at select Brisbane bookstores, or contact me for your copy. Only $20 a book! Plus postage.
I also have copies of Thrill Seekers, Bjelke Blues and A Guide Through Grief, ready to go for Christmas presents. Contact me or see BUY BOOKS HERE.
I’m so very proud of Bryan for telling his story with courage and his trademark sense of humour and open heart. My favourite bit, apart from when he punches his dad, is when he envisions an alternative childhood for himself. The very best part of the publication process was that as we searched for images a photo of Bryan’s mother came to light. He had never had a picture of her before.
With special thanks to Katie and all the lovely people at Lotus Place who made this dream come true.
With lots of love,