Having finally finished reading the BBC Top 100 in February last year, I was wary of setting myself any book-related challenges for 2017. I had originally toyed with the idea of spending the year reading only female writers; a notion that was soon binned when I realised that Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, was in fact male. And so I decided that 2017 would be a year in which I would read exactly what I wanted, though I made a small promise to myself that I would explore more Australian literature, and more non-fiction than I’m accustomed to reading.
And so, The Hate Race – a memoir from an Australian writer – offered me the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. An account of Clarke’s experience as a black woman growing up in predominantly white Australia, its impact is powerful from the very first page.
The daughter of an academic and an actress hailing from Tottenham, Clarke was born and raised in west Sydney, and subject to prejudice from a very young age. We learn of the treatment she endures – from adults and children alike – varying from the inquisitive to ignorant and beyond – as Clarke is subject to casual, overt and institutional racism so rife in Australia. Both eye-opening and heartbreaking, perhaps most shocking of all is the way in which adults and teachers were complicit and excused the behaviour she encountered.
An Australian writer and slam poetry champion of Afro-Caribbean descent, Clarke’s memoir is as rich with lyrical prose as one would hope. An impactful book that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page, The Hate Race is a beautifully crafted memoir that is poignant and provoking in equal measure. Powerful, poetic, melodic & masterful; it’s a hugely important read for people the world over.
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