Brutal. Raw. Jagged. Insightful.
Maxine Beneba Clarke
In this collection of award-winning stories, Melbourne writer Maxine Beneba Clarke has given a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, the downtrodden and the mistreated. It will challenge you, it will have you by the heartstrings. This is contemporary fiction at its finest.
Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award 2013.
In Melbourne’s Western Suburbs, in a dilapidated block of flats overhanging the rattling Footscray train-lines, a young black mother is working on a collection of stories.
The book is called FOREIGN SOIL. Inside its covers, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant is on the war-path through the rebel squats of 1960s’ Brixton, a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny, and a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way.
The young mother keeps writing, the rejection letters keep arriving…
Ms Clarke writes with a passion that explodes on the page. This collection of short stories, is, for the main part brutal and savage and for me the experience was mind opening… many of the circumstances described here are familiar, we have seen something like this on the TV or heard on the news but have become desensitised to and have switched off or ignored. Here you cannot ignore the story; the style and the intensity of the writing will ensure these narratives stay with you long after you finish turning the pages.
If I was recommending this book to you I would suggest you start from the middle or towards the end as I found the authors voice to be easier to read than in the first few stories (the first few are spoken with accents that I am unfamiliar with and I really had to study the words to understand some of the conversations.) For me this was a distraction to the purpose of the prose but that speaks to my experiences or lack of. I think some of these stories should be told not read for best effect.
Regardless of where you start reading, just start. These are voices that need to be heard. Ms Clarke has delivered a brutal and honest message that might at times be uncomfortable to read but is worth the effort.