People of African descent have been in Australia for at least 200 years, yet their stories are largely missing from Australian writing. Australians of the African diaspora have arrived here in many different ways - directly from the continent; via the Caribbean, the Americas and the United Kingdom; making the journey to Australia over one generation, or several.
What is it like to grow up African in Australia? This anthology, compiled by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke with curatorial assistance from writers Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan, showcases diverse voices, experiences and stories in order to answer that question. Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile cultural and sporting identities sit alongside newly discovered voices of all ages, with experiences spanning regions, cities and generations. All of the pieces call for understanding, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect.
Growing Up African aims to defy, question or shed light on the many stereotypes that currently exist about the vibrant extended African community in Australia.
Contributors include Faustina Agolley, Santilla Chingaipe, Carly Findlay, Khalid Warsame, Nyadol Nyuon, Tariro Mavondo, Magan Magan and many, many more.
This is a marvellous compilation of individual stories, from a widely differing group of writers, all sharing a common background. The stories traverse the breadth of Australia geographically, but also across different generations and periods of time.
What the stories share is an exploration of identity. The various authors explore cultural and religious identity, prejudice, racism, difference and belonging, appearance, the effect of war and migration and of family separation, and the impact of media portrayals.
Like the other books in this series, these authors all talk about growing up in Australia, but their stories are diverse and very individual. Many of the stories tackle the author’s experiences of racism in Australia, and challenge stereotypes of Africans in society and the media.
I found both solace and hope in Grace William’s final sentence - ‘I am as Australian as anyone whose family has come to this island from across the seas’. This is certainly true, and these stories are a wonderful way to shed light on what it is really like to grow up African in Australia.
With themes of identity and culture, migration and racism, these stories would also make a good launching pad for further examination of these themes in a classroom setting.
This collection is best suited to those 15 and older.
Reviewed by Rob