Who should pick up this book? Every. Single. Person. The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke is a memoir of life growing up in Australia in the 80’s and 90’s. This book is heart-breaking, mind-blowing and laugh out loud funny. Clarke describes your typical Aussie upbringing, in fact despite approximately 8 years gap between Clarke and myself I found so much of her childhood achingly familiar: cornflakes, cabbage patch kids and BMX bandits. Our childhoods could have been identical, with the exception of one thing: the colour of Clarke’s skin. Hailing from an Afro-carribean descent Clarke stood out growing up and takes us on her journey of how racism has shaped her from kindergarten to high school and beyond.
This was a read in one sitting kind of book that took you on a rollercoaster of emotions. I found myself crying in anger and frustration at hearing about the casual racism that Clarke endured growing up, not only from her class mates but from her teachers – the ones in a position of power. I laughed out loud at her story of performing a tribal dance at a school function. I felt outrage when she describes her empathy towards the Aboriginal people of Australia. The people who have only suffered at the hands of those who came along and invaded invaded their land. Her words made me realise the hypocrisy of treating people from diverse backgrounds like they are aliens in our country and yet we are still waiting to acknowledge the ownership of our native Australians in the Constitution after taking it from them forcefully.
The power of this book is in the ability for Clarke to take you and truly place yourself in her shoes. Feel her ups and her downs in an acute manner that is rare to find in the written word. This memoir is not over-written or written in a way to manipulate the reader into feeling sympathy. The words are simple, straight up and all the more powerful for it. There is so much to be gained from this memoir and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
The Hate Race has been long-listed for The Stella Prize and is a five star read in my opinion. If this is the first book I have read from this list I can only imagine the company it keeps and look forward to reading some great Australian words in the coming months. Do yourself a favour and give this book a go. I guarantee your mind will be blown and your perspective changed.