How to Be Between (Bastian Fox Phelan, Giramondo)
How to Be Between is a memoir that takes the reader on a tour of Australian counterculture at the beginning of the 21st century, through queer spaces, art festivals, DIY punk shows, protests, zine distros and the edges of academia. Those who have been in these spaces will take pleasure in revisiting them, but Bastian Fox Phelan’s genuine and wholesome voice does not exclude those who haven’t. As a guide, Phelan is both thoughtful and frenetic, lost and completely certain, and the compelling contradictions of their character shape what amounts to a study of the ways in which betweenness has worked through their life since childhood. From Phelan’s early years in Wollongong to their travels across Europe in their 20s, the focus of that betweenness is how they come to terms with being non-binary, with having a body and a way of being in the world that eludes the definitions that people attempt to give them. How to Be Between is also about how our past stays with us and how we get lost in other people. But the bones of this story are the things people pass between each other: letters, music, art, zines, ideas, theories, stories themselves. Phelan’s memoir is a celebration of these things and the people who make them, and a celebration of being between in general. It’s a smart and moving book that I wished wouldn’t end, for readers who enjoy emotional stories from the edges of Australia, such as Omar Sakr’s poetry collection The Lost Arabs, Ellen van Neerven’s Heat and Light or Alice Chipkin and Jessica Tavassoli’s Eyes Too Dry.
David Little is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.