One of the great roles of literature is to introduce us to worlds and experiences that differ from our own. In recent years, I have been drawn to books on race, and these stories have opened my eyes to some of the shameful reality of racism, both in Australia and around the world, from the perspectives of those affected.
These books have offered insight into the breadth of experiences, and trauma, suffered by those who have faced racial prejudice, from the casual racism faced by immigrants in There Was Still Love by Favel Parret and Black Rock White City by AS Patric to the overt racism Maxine Beneba Clarke remember experiencing as a child in suburban Melbourne in her novel, The Hate Race.
Living in Australia, only the most wilfully ignorant are not aware of the racism that has impacted generations of Indigenous Australians, and continues today. However, it can be difficult to find the individual stories among the information provided in history books, which only ever tell a fraction of the story, and tell it in a way that does little to offer insight into the real impact of the racist policies of the past, and enduring prejudices in the community.
That is why books like Tony Birch’s The White Girl and its story of the cruel policies that saw Indigenous Australians removed from their families can play a crucial role in illuminating the implications of the racism of the past, helping Australians see why apology and recognition are so important.
For a modern perspective, Too Much Lip exposes the scars white settlement has left on Indigenous communities. Both books enable readers to get a glimpse of real lives and stories, far removed from text books or news reports.
These books offer the opportunity to move away from stereotypes, and to understand the intimate and devastating reality of racism for those who experience it.
So, as demonstrations for equality are held around the world, and in Melbourne on Saturday, why not pick up one of these books that explore the theme of race? Why not even buy one to support the writers and gain insight into their world? I’d love to hear about the books on race that have moved or enriched you.
Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The White Girl by Tony Birch
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Black Rock White City by AS Patric
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
There Was Still Love by Favel Parret