Catherine Noske reviews 'The Hate Race: A memoir' and 'Carrying the World' by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Catherine Noske reviews 'The Hate Race: A memoir' and 'Carrying the World' by Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Hate Race: A memoir

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Hachette, $32.99 pb, 271 pp, 9780733632280

Carrying the World

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Hachette, $26.99 pb, 183 pp, 9780733636400

Catherine Noske

Catherine Noske

Catherine Noske is the editor of Westerly Magazine at the University of Western Australia, where she also teaches in

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Across two new titles, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers an unflinching portrayal of the impact of racism, and transcends form in turning a lens on Australian society. Together, these two works witness the myriad ways in which racism shapes the daily life of its victims, the ongoing impact and the toll on body and mind. We see this damage play out in each work, both in psychological terms and, as she describes in her memoir, physically. 'For most of my school life,' she writes, 'trauma manifested itself on my skin.' Her writing is blunt, uncompromising. Both works utilise repetition to enormous effect, layering instances of prejudice and returning again and again to specific moments of trauma. While the approach in writing differs radically across the two texts, they share stories to create something much larger between them.

The memoir feels in many ways like a shift from Beneba Clarke's poetic approach. It lacks the sharp edge I had expected. Carrying the World offers the same dangerous beauty of her previous poetry collection, nothing here needs fixing (2013) – and indeed incorporates some of the same work. But The Hate Race lacks some of the intricacy of her poetry. The voice is simple and open. Sympathetic to the child's perspective, it predominantly focuses on her school years. And it depends on the appeal of this voice – the familiarity of childhood, the associations of innocence – to carry the emotional power of each moment.

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Published in October 2016, no. 385

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