Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 9 August 2016
Rating: 5 stars
‘The margins between events have blended and shifted in the tell of it. There’s that folklore way West Indians have, of weaving a tale; facts just so, gasps and guffaws in all the right places — because, after all, what else is a story for?’
Maxine is hands down one of my favourite authors — I will seriously pick up anything this woman writes. The Hate Race is her third book and her first memoir. It was just as beautiful as her short story collection, Foreign Soil.
Clarke has a magical writing style. Being a poet, her prose has an innate rhythm and melody that grabs your hand and guides you through the narrative. Within the pages of this book, she shares what it’s like growing up in suburban Sydney as the only black family in their town. And just after Australia had dismantled The White Australia Policy—this was a policy that up until the early 70s barred people of non-European heritage from immigrating to Australia.
This book is heartbreaking. It highlights and showcases all the casual and everyday racism, which is embedded in our culture. From people contently question Clarke where she’s from, even though she was born in Australia, and then telling her where she’s from; to PE teacher assuming you’ll be good at track and field because of your skin colour; all mix with that desperate need to fit in at school. The most shocking element wasn’t the playground bullies but the teachers, kids parents and councillors who sat back, excused and at times defended horrible racist behaviour and taunts thrown at Clarke.
It made me angry, it made me cry, it made me laugh at times at all the 90s books, music, shows and toys I also grew up with. It scared me that this wasn’t all that long ago. But ultimately it’s made me hopeful. Having this book is an invaluable insight into an experience I am fortunate enough to never have. It’s through people voicing their experience that our culture can learn and think before making any vaguely offensive comment.
I highly recommend. This book is significant in the fight against racism and a move towards an accepting and inclusive future.