Read Like A Feminist Book Club: The Hate Race, Maxine Beneba Clarke

In the lead up to our inaugural Read Like a Feminist Book Club, we’ve put together a bit of a resource pack, to help you explore The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke ahead of the discussion.

If you haven’t been able to read the book – never fear! This post has links to a bunch of articles and videos you can explore, and still engage with the discussion – it’ll just help you be extra informed when you finally do read the book.

What is The Hate Race about?

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke is a ‘powerful, funny and at times devastating memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia’. The book details Beneba Clarke’s experiences of childhood, adolescence and school life, negotiating suburban Australia as a person of colour.

The Hate Race is confronting, funny, moving, and in some ways, a demanding book – it forces the reader to look Australian racism in the face, and to acknowledge that the experiences detailed within it are common for many non-white Australians.

It is also a testament to Beneba Clarke’s skills as a storyteller, and the pace and cadence of the book are one of the most enjoyable things about it.

First impressions…

Our panelists, Zoya Patel, Yen Eriksen and Farz Edraki will be discussing the book live at the Book Club event – here they share their first impressions.

Zoya: Reading this book was like being pushed back 20 or so years in my own life, and remembering the racism I experienced growing up as an Indian-Fijian-Australian in country NSW. I felt angry, and appalled, and frustrated, and at times just in awe of how Beneba Clarke and her family dealt with some of the racism they experienced.

It made me remember the people at the schools I went to who didn’t do anything when they saw what I was going through – and also the people who did do something. It made me wonder how far we’ve come, and how far we need to go.

Yen: This book is full of ah-ha moments, where you are invited to trace and follow the deeply knitted threads of racism and its outcomes on the life of one young woman. These moments spelt out for me in a series of painful realisations that as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and migrant children, we were all struggling against the rip tide of racism in Australia.

I am looking forward to discussing and unraveling this book with you all next week as it’s a book that warrants discussion, posing significant questions about the place that we live and the experiences that have never been told.

Farz: Maxine Beneba Clarke manages to capture the agony of adolescence achingly well. Little references to Dolly magazine or after-school Coke slushees from the corner store catapulted me back to high school in Mildura.

Like Zoya, her experiences of growing up as a woman of colour in Australia made me think about my own encounters with racism at school. But, I feel lucky in the sense that I was never faced with overt name-calling or insults in the same way that Maxine was. It was more the accumulation of tiny events that amounted to a sense of feeling like an outsider. This is the kind of book I wish I could’ve read as a teenager.

Things to discuss

At Read Like a Feminist Book Club, we want to talk about lots of things, but some key points of interest are:

  • Why did Beneba Clarke choose this particular timeframe in her life to explore through this book?
  • What impact do books like these have on our culture as a whole – do these stories get told enough?
  • How were Beneba Clarke’s experiences further influenced by her gender?
  • What are some of the techniques that she uses that really work in this book, and what are some that didn’t quite gel for us?

Stuff you should read/watch/listen to:

  • This review of The Hate Race in the Sydney Morning Herald, and this one in The Saturday Paper.
  • This interview with Maxine Beneba Clarke with The Stella Prize, which Foreign Soil was shortlisted for in 2015.
  • Beneba Clarke reading one of her poems, showcasing her storytelling in action.
  • This great podcast, with Beneba Clarke’s story, Chinese Straight.

Feminartsy’s Read Like a Feminist Book Club will be taking place on Saturday 8 October, at 2pm at Smith’s Alternative in Civic, Canberra.

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