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Reading Barracuda is like treading on a stony shore. It crashes into our consciousness like waves and unsettles us, challenges everything we are. It is unflinching and exposes the in between spaces of Australian society.Image

Danny Kelly is a working class boy from Melbourne’s north. He is a wog with a dream to win Olympic gold, to emerge from his many labels and be seen. His mother is a “wog Marilyn Monroe,” his farther a Scotch-Irish truckie. Dan is as fearsome in the water as Barracuda, a nickname the boys at a prestigious private school give him when he attends the school on a sporting scholarship. “With his tie so tight, the flat of a knife pressed against his throat so he couldn’t breathe freely…Danny was vanishing.” He was disappearing into the space between working and middle class who owned homes “with front yards as big as football fields.”

Danny Kelly is driven, passionate and angry.

Danny Kelly fails.

Danny Kelly’s future becomes dust.

This is a remarkable book about dreams that disintegrate like sand and the identities that disappear with them. It’s about mistakes and consequences. It’s about re-emerging from the dust to recover oneself, to create a life of integrity.

Christos Tsiolkas’s chapters are not chronological, they are scattered like thoughts. They are fragmented and lodge us in Dan’s turbulent mind. There is empathy for the boy who needs to lose before he can win, a place for him in our hearts that recognises his struggles, his frustrations, and his shame.  Dan is the boy we pass at Broadmeadows train station, the one we see through as he walks past on Sydney road in his trackie dacks. Danny Kelly dares us to listen. His voice is unrelenting, his complexities are revealed like scabs. We discover him and in the process we discover ourselves.

Barracuda beats with the rhythms of Australian culture. “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi,” “Barracuda…Barracuda!” the chants question what it is that we really barrack for. In a country driven by sport, could this be the common thread that binds us, that shapes our diversity? What does it mean to win? What does it mean to fail?

Barracuda asks us what it means to be human. The question is present in every lap, in every stroke, “bending and shifting” our consciousness like the water that welcomes Danny Kelly.

BOOK COVERSpiritual, fascinating, dark and mythical, The Light Heart of Stone delivers a tale of prejudice, invasion, identity, love and culture in a fantastical world that mirrors our Australian history. Colonisation, the stolen generation, cross cultural relationships, refugees are themes that are as present as the wanderers’ stones. Characters are fresh and the Indidjiny culture rich with divine connection to self, land and each other- a magic like no other. Tor Roxburgh’s is a gripping voice that dares you to turn the page and challenges more than one belief. A compelling read!

 

 

 

 

“Each passing year blurs the memory, another hazy layer of plastic wrap laid over the senses,” writes Meg Mundell in The Tower, a story from her Ebook collection “Things I Did for Money.” Her stories, though, unwrap our senses and leave us feeling, questioning and wondering at the human psyche and the things that make and break us. Great read!

For more information on this Ebook visit http://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/title/things-i-did-for-money

Read it if you have room to love four more people.

With no reservations.

This book delivers “The Secret” of life in a smelly, unjust, chaotic package laced with little miracles.

You become a part of the tapestry as four characters stitch their fates together in a desperate India in the midst of political unrest.

Read it with your mind and eyes wide open…and a strong heart.

Tsiolkas‘The Slap’ by Christos Tsiolkas unveils a thin layer of smog from our eyes to expose the chaos that lies beneath the veneer of our multicultural society. When a child is slapped by another parent at a backyard barbecue, the effects ripple through the North, South, East and Western suburbs of Melbourne testing beliefs, morals, friendships, loyalties and the truths of the main characters in an uncompromising, unpretentious and honest narrative that captivates and awakens the reader. In one chapter each, eight characters present at the barbecue share their views on the slap and its many consequences on the friendship circle.  Tsiolkas’s characterisation is fearless, he places us into their minds, their desires, fantasies, and their pasts enabling us to better understand their present. Each chapter has enough to constitute a short story but Tsiolkas threads their stories together with such expertise they make an irresistible whole.

Tsiolkas’s characters are real, so real that their voices loom loud above the pages. Whether it’s the elderly Manolis who hobbles with the weight of loneliness and disappointments, the complexity of today’s youth in Connie and Richie or the burden of adulthood that cuffs Hector, these characters are the voices of our society. Even though some are not particularly likeable, we are compelled to read on because there’s a certain truth that echoes on the page, an honesty that can’t be ignored. Tsiolkas’s language is powerful and his descriptions so raw that his words invade the page with no warning, shocking the reader.  

‘The Slap’ is a scattered reflection of our society. From the bleak and monotonous western suburbs to the glamorous East, Tsiolkas has captured the heart of multicultural Melbourne, where generalisations, ethnic hostility, identity, morals and stereotypes unite to illustrate social and cultural issues. Manolis, an elderly Greek migrant, believes that his generation have “bred monsters,” and laments at the current generation’s selfishness, their lack of respect. His wife cannot warm to her Indian daughter in law, Aisha, wishing her son married a Greek girl, even though her daughter’s marriage to a Greek man ended in divorce. This typifies the attitudes prevalent in many migrant communities and Tsiolkas does not hold back, he honours his characters with their truth. Through them we reinforce our own truths and discover that within these characters’ minds lurk thoughts we don’t dare voice. We recognise their consciences, their fears, their insecurities, and the humanity that binds us together.       

The novel’s setting is an ideal battleground for the differing cultures that envelope Melbourne. Multiculturalism enriches our country like no other, but Tsiolkas chips at the intolerance of our society until it screams on the page. In one scene Van sings “wog man, wog man,” putting on a “ching-chong” voice, in another Manolis’s nephew Harry says Australians don’t “give a fuck about their children.” Through a string of sayings that have become social anthems, ‘The Slap’ reinforces Australia’s identity crises and questions what it really means to be Australian. From religion and its stereotype, to the wogs, the bogans, the Aboriginals, Tsiolkas’s Australia is a conundrum.

‘The Slap’ weaves a web of drugs, hostility, sex, abuse, domestic violence, corruption, around our society and challenges the role of men and women, parents and children. It is our mirror that reveals a blemished reflection. We see the world as an aging man, a confused teen, a mother, a single woman, a gay boy and we feel. Whether it’s outrage, sympathy, understanding, confusion, pain, happiness, disappointment, Tsiolkas challenges our beliefs and dares us to imagine what it may be like to live as another, plonking us in a harsh reality, to a corrupt society in need of repair.

push cover

In her first novel ‘Push’, Sapphire introduces us to Precious Jones and her world of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, obesity and her indomitable will to survive. Precious lives in Harlem with a drifting father, who pit-stops to sleep with her, and an obese mother whose fingers explore between Precious’s legs. Precious dreams of escaping the abuse and changing her life and shares her story in a strong, raw voice, that makes you laugh, cringe and feel for her sixteen years of life.

‘Push’ has a cast of powerful, realistic characters that makes a convincing, credible story. Precious is not particularly likeable at the start with her vulgar language and self loathing but her voice is so powerful and her plight so heart wrenching that it compels the reader to turn the page. It’s not until Precious displays attitude and an iron will to beat her abuse, illiteracy and change her stagnant life that we warm to her, and once she bears her father’s second child and embraces life’s challenges we respect and love her. We push her on in alternative school, read her diary and powerful poetry and share her struggles as she strives to reach her dream of getting her G.E.D to go to college and eventually find a home for herself and her son.

The book is told in first person but in the early stages there’s a nine page transition to third person limited to Precious’s point of view, giving readers an interlude from the usual colloquial language. It is such a smooth shift that it nearly goes unnoticed until it subtly changes back to Precious’s rough voice.  Although her voice is powerful, sometimes the narrative is hard to follow as her vocabulary is made up of slang and misspelled words like “fahver”, “muver”, “nothin’”, “hafta”, but it’s not enough to discourage readers to put the book down. As Precious learns to read and write her voice notably changes and spelling improves. This makes the narrative smooth and readers proud of her triumph.

Through the putrid smell of Harlem, rape, vaginas, obese bodies and the haze of abuse emerges a woman who finds her own identity. With a simple yet gripping plot, ‘Push’ is a book that often leaves a bad taste in your mouth but a soft spot in your heart. The novel invites discussions on themes like friendship, love, ugly vs. beauty, sexually transmitted diseases, dysfunctional families, abuse, self esteem and loving and respecting ourselves. Young adult readers will undoubtedly be shocked, yet riveted by Precious’s life and should be inspired to raise their voice and speak out about abuse and confronting issues in today’s society and be more open to blunt, in-your-face literature.

‘Push’ is now a movie called ‘Precious’ directed by Lee Daniels and has won 3 awards at the Sundance Film Festival. Let’s hope it does the book justice.