The Hate Race (Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hachette)
Maxine Beneba Clarke’s storytelling in The Hate Race has a heft to it that is at once steeped in history, and also exquisitely and playfully modern; it is lyrical, sincere and ironic, but above all, it is fierce. What starts out as a nostalgic childhood memoir soon turns into a revealing account of racism in Australia. The Hate Race explores the sun-drenched, suburban, middle-class childhood of Clarke and her siblings, born in Australia to parents of Jamaican and Guyanese descent who emigrated from England in the 1970s. It moves from West Indian folkloric flourishes into familiar childhood episodes, only to deliver, again and again, that appalling gut punch: that being black in Australia is to be the subject of racism. Technically, this book is near-perfect. At the beginning and end of chapters, and at select moments throughout the narrative, Clarke emphasises the storytelling with exquisite stylistic repetitions: ‘this is how it sang’, ‘this is how it stalks us’, ‘this is how it happened, or else what’s a story for’. Never before have I read narrative repetition executed with such precision, poetry and power. The Hate Race will appeal to anyone with an interest in Australian history, culture and identity today.
Amy Vuleta is a bookseller in Melbourne