Book review: The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner, Grace Tame

A memoir from the activist and advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, the cover of Grace Tames’ long-anticipated memoir is worth a mention. It’s a detailed pencil sketch: two faces of Grace; one is hopeful, looking up into the distance; the other, clutching her head, looking down. The heads are surrounded by almost mythical symbolism: eagles, snakes, skulls, a hand clutching a chess piece, wolves, spiders, butterflies and fish. It’s a striking cover and even more so when you learn that Tame drew it herself. A picture tells a thousand words and it’s a fitting opening to the hefty volume.

You pick up her book and wonder what a 28-year-old’s memoir could involve. But Tame’s life has not been like others, plus she’s funny. The memoir skates between darkness and light, at times, poking fun at the darkness. Her descriptions of family and early life are woven in with the grooming and sexual assault that happened when she was 14. You realise just how young she was when these descriptions appear early on, among accounts of her host of aunties and eating Coco Pops with her cousin. 

‘The general public knows only a relatively whitewashed version of my story. Not necessarily because I have hidden it from view, but because to honestly reflect on one’s own life, especially the most painful parts of it, is incredibly confronting,’ Tame says in the first chapter. 

She also talks of her autism and how it manifests; particularly how it manifested following the trauma of sexual abuse. Tame details the media frenzy, including hapless documentary makers trying to sensationalise her trauma. She analyses the influences and experiences that led her to where she is today; both good and bad. She makes her political views clear (yes, she weighs in on J.K. Rowling), even at the risk of alienating non-progressive left readers.  

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Tame’s voice is confident and self-aware. There are large swathes of personal history, some of which is interesting while other parts are a slog. The colour photographs in the middle of the book of Tame at various ages in her life help paint a clearer picture of the words you’re reading. 

It’s a fascinating look into the mind of a young woman whose face is so familiar, her voice somewhat less so – until now. Voice is a recurring theme throughout the memoir and Tame’s final words are fitting: ‘may these words bring you home’. For anyone who has struggled through their own trauma, this book is a must.  

The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner: A Memoir by Grace Tame
Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia
ISBN: 9781760988050
Format: Hardback
Pages: 352
Publication date: 27 September 2022
RRP: $49.99

Please note: This article was amended after publication to remove an inaccurate reference to a ghostwriter, which was originally included due to a misreading of the text. The book was entirely written by Tame (no one was employed as a ghostwriter.

Cherie Gilmour is a freelance writer from Torquay.