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The Hate Race

2017 - Winner


Judges' comments

A haunting memoir about growing up with black skin in late twentieth-century Australia, The Hate Race is written with passion and brutal honesty. Skillfully interweaving intimate family history with the Atlantic slave trade and contemporary migration make this a disturbingly powerful story. It is all the more engaging because of its elegant narrative construction.

Beneba Clarke’s memoir is shaped by the humour and pathos of potent episodes from her childhood, such as when her classmates refuse to believe her black parents could ever have come from England; and when Beneba Clarke, descended from slaves, chooses to present a touristic rather than a realistic picture of her parents’ birthplace for a school project, knowing that it is only this white-washed project that will earn her the highest marks. The prologue and epilogue highlight the continuing physical and verbal abuse endured by those with dark skin in a white country. Immensely moving, this book is written with courage, eloquence and honesty.

The Hate Race is a frank exposition of the brutalities inflicted through racial vilification, and the humiliations of institutional and casual racism — issues with which contemporary Australia continues to grapple. Layered with disarming wit, it draws attention to the subjective nature of storytelling itself. While it is an indictment of systemic oppression, The Hate Race is also a testament to courage in the face of cruelty, narrated with literary sophistication in a unique and compelling voice that will appeal to all Australians.