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2021 - Shortlisted
Funny, vibrant and genuine, Rawah Arja’s The F Team follows Tariq Nader, leader of ‘The Wolf Pack’ at Punchbowl Boys, a school that is in danger of shutting down thanks to a proliferation of negative stories in the media. When new principal Mr Archie forces him to join a footy comp with students from Cronulla in order to rehabilitate the image of the school, Tariq must learn to swallow his pride and discover what it takes to be a team player both on and off the field.
Arja draws expertly on her personal experience to depict a community, setting and culture that sing from the pages. Tariq’s narration and the dialogue between his mates is a real treat: authentic, sometimes confronting and always hilarious. Readers will find themselves immersed in the Nader family home, where Arja weaves in many personal stories and experiences to demonstrate the multiplicity and complexity of ethnic narratives that are rarely given their due. Heartwarming and fun, this sweet debut captures the kind of Australia we all dream about.