Prize Fighter by Future D. Fidel
Future D. Fidel is a refugee from the Congo. Prize Fighter is based on the acclaimed stage play written by Fidel and it too follows the life of Isa Alaki from the war-torn Congo to life in Australia. The power of this novel is that it takes the cold, clinical term ‘refugee’ and turns the abstract ‘refugee’ into a person with fears, hopes, and a future.
Isa is born to a middle-class family in the Eastern Congo. His father is a politician and when rebels invade their city his family is targeted and brutally killed; only Isa’s older brother and he are spared, forced to join the ragtag band of rebels and become brutalised themselves. Isa escapes and makes his way to Nairobi, where he is taken in by a kindly woman and her adopted daughter. They encourage Isa to seek refuge away from Africa.
Accepted by Australia, Isa arrives in Brisbane alone and disoriented but obsessed with trying to find his brother. When he was little, his brother taught him the rudiments of boxing and in Brisbane he uses boxing as a way to ground himself and also as a way to get enough money to search for his brother. As a boxer he is single-minded and vicious, driven by the demons that haunt him; these qualities bring him success in the ring.
Fidel has written a story of great power that brings to life an experience that would be alien to most of us. It is a wonderful addition to the canon of Australian writing.