The Hate Race

Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Hate Race
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The Hate Race

Maxine Beneba Clarke

‘Against anything I had ever been told was possible, I was turning white. On the surface of my skin, a miracle was quietly brewing …’

Suburban Australia. Sweltering heat. Three bedroom blonde-brick. Family of five. Beat-up Ford Falcon. Vegemite on toast. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s life is just like all the other Aussie kids on her street. Except for this one, glaring, inescapably obvious thing.

From one of Australia’s most exciting writers, and the author of the multi-award-winning Foreign Soil, comes The Hate Race: a powerful, funny, and at times devastating memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia.

Review

Maxine Beneba Clarke’s father was the first in his family to go university. They were working class, from Tottenham, a suburb of London. He’d shown a talent for mathematics and became an academic; her mother was an actress. They were a bright young couple with a bright future in England so people were surprised when Bordeaux Clarke accepted a teaching position at a University in Western Sydney and he and his wife Cleo moved to Kellyville in Sydney’s west. There they proceeded to have three children. Their middle daughter, Maxine, grew up to become a poet and writer of great note.

Apart from their education and culture, what made the Clarke family different from the usual English migrants was their Afro Caribbean heritage – they were black. What is it like to be black in Australia? The Hate Race is an attempt to explain what it feels like to suffer a lifetime of constant slights that range from comments yelled from a passing car, ‘Fuck off, you black bitch’, to the more restrained but just as hurtful, ‘Maxine you are a very, very nasty little black girl.’ To navigate this while growing up was a constant strain. Maxine’s wonderful mother would try to support her, reminding her that they were only words, but words did hurt her, they ‘hurt inside my heart’.

I felt a sense of shame reading this book; shame that I, that my society, were not better. But I also felt that this moving, beautifully crafted memoir was something that we should all read because it could teach us how not to be. I wondered: could I hurt someone because they were different, had I? You can’t read this book and not be affected by it; you can’t read this book and not be astounded by the force of its writing. It will be something you want to discuss with your friends, with your world.


Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings.

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