Book Review: “Captive Prince” Trilogy


‘Love Conquers All’

I am sure most people are familiar with that expression. While it may sound cheesy and a bit worn out, in my opinion it describes the plot of Australian writer C.S. Pacat’s trilogy Captive Prince perfectly, even though the story is anything but cheesy. 

The novels follow Prince Damianos (Damen) of Akelios, who is supposed to inherit the throne after his father. However, he is captured by his half-brother, who wants to seize the throne, and is then sent to the enemy country Vere as a pleasure slave. In Vere, nobody knows about Damen’s identity, but he is also unable to reveal himself since he is on enemy territory. Apart from that, his new ‘master’ Laurent, the Prince of Vere, would kill him instantly for personal reasons. So, Damen is forced to endure captivity until he gets entangled in Vere’s political situation and a fight for the Veretian throne. Over the course of the novels Damen and Laurent have to work together in order to survive and to save their countries. But things get even more problematic when they start developing feelings for each other and secrets are slowly being revealed.

Their love story has many great hurdles. They are both crown princes to their rival nations, so they are under a lot of pressure from their courts and councils. But first and foremost they are battling their own demons from the past and present. Damen, who was sold out to the enemy by his own brother has to deal with the aftermath of his slavery including torture, humiliation and sexual assault through Laurent and other Veretians. Additionally, he is thrown into a different culture, in which a different language is spoken and which has in – Damen’s eyes – unspeakable customs. Laurent’s trauma started when he was a young boy just having lost his father and his older brother Auguste. He was sexually abused and manipulated by his own uncle, the Regent, who tried to seize Laurent’s birthright: the Veretian throne. So basically their traumas reside for a great part with each other. One the one hand Laurent being the one using, humiliating and nearly killing Damen and on the other hand Damen being the one killing Auguste during the war and therefore being one of the reasons for Laurent’s assault. This is why a great part of the story deals with guilt. Damen feels guilty for falling in love with Laurent despite his enslavement but also because he believes Laurent to be unaware of his identity. Laurent, however, knew who Damen was from the beginning and therefore feels guilty for falling in love with his brother’s killer.   

I chose this trilogy because, to me, it is simply awesome. The plot is very intricate and has, in my opinion, many unseen twists. Additionally, the characters and their development are portrayed well. I also like the setting since I am a fan of kingdoms, courts, royals and their politics. Of course, I also like it because of Damen’s and Laurent’s love story, which I think is a great realization of the trope ‘enemies to lovers’. Be warned though, the story contains a lot of crude language and explicit depictions of violence (torture), slavery, trauma and (non-consensual) sex, so it is certainly not for everyone. 

But ultimately I love this story because it was not so much about two men falling in love, which many other (queer) romances focus on, but rather about two people caught up in their dark pasts, weaving through intricate deceptions and mind plays to in the end learning to forgive themselves and accept their feelings for each other.

Pacat, C.S.. Captive Prince. New York: Berkley, 2015. Print. 

Pacat, C.S.. Prince’s Gambit. New York: Berkley, 2015. Print. 

Pacat, C.S.. Kings Rising. New York: Berkley, 2016. Print. 

“Sometimes being yourself is the hardest thing” – A Review of Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars

Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars is a highly enjoyable and entertaining read albeit not without its flaws. Set in Dublin, Ireland, the novel follows Nishat, a Bengali Muslim girl, who recently has come out to her parents whose reaction is not the outcome for which she had hoped. Heartbroken by her parent’s unsupportive behavior her feeling of isolation is further amplified by the prejudice and racism she experiences in the Catholic high school that she attends. Only her younger sister Priti seems to be her only ally and confidante. When her teacher initiates a business competition Nishat seizes this opportunity to prove herself as more as her perception by her environment. Among all this, love also seemingly knocks on her door.

Jaigirdar paints a vivid image of the struggles of intersectional identities. On the one side, we experience Nishat’s endeavor to embrace her transcultural identity as a Bengali Muslim girl in an inherently white and Catholic hegemony. Despite the racism and prejudice, further worsened by a rumor a schoolmate spreads, Nishat’s determination to be proud of her cultural heritage never wavers, instead, it is celebrated throughout the novel in various ways.  One cultural aspect is presented in the shape of food. Food is an integral part of many cultures and a shared experience between people. The novel often mentions and describes food in the novel in a highly positive manner and when a schoolmate spreads rumors about the negative effects of Bengali food it does not estrange Nishat from her heritage.

It is a refreshing take on the reconcilement of transcultural and non-normative identities. Many Young Adult novels deal with issues that many young readers may or may not experience in their formative years, as such many of these issues are often depicted as a problem. A novel that has a BIPOC as a protagonist often confronts them with their skin color and the perception thereof by the people around them. Luckily, Jaigirdar, as many recent Young Adult authors do, refrains from this old trope. Nishat does experience racism and discrimination, she is often perceived and judged on the basis of her heritage because it is the experience and part of the life of almost any immigrant or BIPOC, but it is not the focal point of the novel.

This is also beautifully displayed by Nishat’s coming out as a lesbian. She is faces problems and a less than desirable reaction from her parents but as with her heritage, her confidence in her identity never wavers. She does not see her queer identity as a problem but instead the reaction and treatment by her parents and her peers. As such the business competition presents an opportunity to assert herself as an individual that is not solely informed by her transcultural and queer identity. However, by establishing a henna business she still incorporates and embraces her cultural heritage.

The henna business touches on another important aspect of the novel: cultural appropriation. Jaigirdar demonstrates that there is a fine line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. She reminds the reader that one might not always agree on what a person considers as appropriation but that it is important to listen to those that are affected by it. The novel shows that those lines sometimes blur and what one person perceives as appreciation the person from the target culture may feel their cultural identity violated and exploited. However, it is at this point where the novel sometimes falls flat. Nishat rarely communicates her concerns regarding the appropriation of her culture and the resolve of these concerns is unsatisfactory and opens more questions than it delivers answers.

This is an issue encountered several times throughout the novel. The different problems Nishat faces receive a rather lackluster and sometimes rushed resolution. Additionally, I felt as if the love story between Nishat and her classmate Flávia was also at times lacking consistence.

Nonetheless, in the whole with The Henna Wars Adiba Jairgirdar provided a solid debut as an author. Her style of narrative is simple and straightforward, she draws characters that are relatable but also flawed and touches on issues that have only become a focal point of Young Adult literature in recent years. The novel has its minor flaws that might leave the reader with an unsatisfactory resolution but in the grand scheme of things the story is a fun read, the characters are for the most part fleshed out and relatable, and it picks up on important topics such as racism and discrimination.

Trauma and Poetry in “Catching Teller Crow”

By Benedikt von Laufenberg

In this blog post, I want to focus on the first chapters of the novel Catching Teller Crow and the way in which the chapters highlight the relation between trauma and detective work. Moreover, I want to take a closer look on the way the novel shifts between prose sections and poetry.

In the first chapter of the novel called “The Town“ it becomes apparent that the protagonist, Beth Teller, has died in a car crash. Her ghost or presence is perceptible to her father Michael and to her father only: “I [the girl] tried speaking to her [the girl’s aunt], even though I’d known by then that only Dad could see and hear me (p.9).“ One reading imposes itself: only the father can hear her because he is traumatized by her death and wishes that his daughter were still alive. This naturalistic reading is somewhat at odds with the broader genre under which “Catching Teller Crow“ is rubricated: Australian speculative fiction. A genre in which it is not impossible for ghosts and other supernatural beings to occur. But these two readings – the naturalistic and the speculative one – are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to investigate the effect the dead girl’s presence has on her father psychologically even though one is ready to accept that her presence is real. So, what is the effect of the dead girl’s presence on her father?

   Her father is a detective and has lost his wife some years ago. He is inclined to see causation everywhere: “But Dad said that [the observation that correlation is not necessarily causation] was scientist-talk not police-talk, and if two things happened together you’d suspect the first thing had caused the second until it could provide you with an alibi (p.13).“ This tendency to see causation everywhere might be directly linked with the experience of loosing his daughter in the car accident. An event which is contingent and cannot be explained. Especially because no one drove too fast (cf. p.8). Thus, the accident is perceived as just an accident with no satisfactory explanation. Thus, the search of causation might be a compensation for not being able to rationally explain the accident. That his daughter is present to him when he tries to solve crimes by uncovering hidden causation might be seen as a testimony of the efficiency of this compensation: he feels close to his daughter and might even be able to bring her back: “There was a note of sadness in his voice, and I knew he was thinking about how Nurse Flint had likely died here. You can’t bring him back, Dad. But you can find out what happened to him [italics in the original] (p.15).“

   It was shown that the necessity to find causation in crime might be directly linked with the experience of loosing one’s daughter in an event which cannot be explained by causality. Thus, the need to find causality is some kind of compensation.

When Beth and her father visit a witness the novel, which has up to this point relied solely on prose, shifts towards a poetry section. Why this change? In order to answer this question, I think it best to enlist the differences between poetry and prose as I see it. Readers will approach a poem differently from a prose texts. The reading is slower as they might recite the words in one’s head and thus also generally pay more attention to them. In poetry every words count. Thus, one approaches the poetry section with more caution, more attention and with an altogether different outlook. It slows the reading down. One expects to read something important. But there are also similarities: the witness, also a girl, also appears to have had a car accident.

   Apart from formalistic and substantive differences, the poetry section might also be read as a kind of indirect characterization. People thinking or communicating in poetry with other people also pay special attention to their words. In a sense this thinking and communication is more artful than mere speech. This artfulness is also interesting when one considers the subject matter of the poem: it appears as if poetry is a coping mechanism for traumatic events. In poetry, once can give this experience shape: there are verses and stanzas. In order to answer the question broadly this change from prose to poetry might indicate a method to deal with trauma. In comparison between the father who tries to establish causality, poetry with its free association and playful metaphors appears to be an altogether different way to deal with trauma.

In this blog post, I have shown how a traumatic experience in fiction can be directly linked with the work of a decretive who tries to establish causality. Moreover, it was shown that the change form poetry to prose might indicate another way to deal with trauma: in poetry.

Kwaymullina, Ambelin and Kwaymullina, Ezekiel. Catching Teller Crow. Penguin Random House UK: 2019

Elements of Time in Joan Lindsay’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock”

this blogpost includes spoilers of the novel and its adaptations

An uncanny premise

Joan Lindsay’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1967) is a pseudo-historical Gothic Horror novel which was followed by its famous movie adaptation “The Day of Saint Valentine” in 1975. The novel begins with Lindsay’s fateful remark that it would be up to the reader to decide whether or not the story to be told is completely fictious, or utterly true.

            Appleyard College is a school in Australian Victoria in the year 1900, where upper-class girls are meant to be raised to eligible women of society. After the students and teachers venture off to have a picnic at the near rock formation known as the Hanging Rock, the headmistress Mrs. Appleyard receives dreadful news upon their return: Four of the students wandered off to the rock formation to explore it despite having been forbidden, and only one of them returned. At the same time, one of the teachers has disappeared into thin air. None of the women were found in several search parties, until one day, one of the students can be rescued – but neither her nor her fellow student who returned from the Hanging Rock are able to remember anything that happened in the outback.

            In the aftermath of the incident, many of the residents at Appleyard College are taken back home by their worried parents, and a few, including the headmistress, meet their grim and untimely fates…A year later, the college burns to the ground in a terrible bush fire, but even a decade later, the missing girls still haven’t been found.

Passing and conception of time within the story and its role as a stylistic element

Time takes up an intricate task in the telling of Lindsay’s novel. Not only does it create an air of mystery, impatience, and uncanniness within the plot itself, it is also utilized as a stylistic feature in form of slowing down and speeding up the perceived pace of the story. To shorten this analysis to a length appropriate for the format of a blog post, the focus will lay on the events up until a few days after the vanishing. 

            Mrs. Appleyard’s college is a place where strict manners and the abiding to set appointments is expected. The different steps of the day, from breakfast to bedtime, are organized by the clock (e.g. “I shall expect you back […] at about eight o’clock […].”, p.7; “As it was still only eleven o’clock […].”, p.11) and time is generally perceived in a very measurable manner, as time specifications are used often (e.g. “[…] about an hour from now […]”, p.18; “[…] only a few minutes ago […]”, p.19). The journey to the picnic grounds itself seems to take forever: There are hardly any indications of the time that is passing, only elaborate descriptions of the surrounding outback, and the entire ride seems stretched by that to the extent that it almost appears to occur in real time (p.8-14). In a similar way, the stay at the grounds appears lengthy, too. The language draws a picture of a warm summer day, the girls scattered across the lawn all drowsy and lazy, almost as if time stood still (pp.16f) when suddenly, it turns out time had stood still – in form of everybody’s watches, that is: at 12pm sharp, Mr. Hussey the driver’s watch stops ticking, as well as one of the teacher’s, which had “Never stopped before” (p.18). From that moment on, the travelling shadow of the Hanging Rock becomes the only measure of time, indicating how it starts to cast its spell and suck the picnic party in. 

            There are several instances throughout the opening of the novel where the future is being teased and events are being foreshadowed. One particular passage even shifts the narrative perspective for a brief moment: When one of the students, Miranda, calls back to her fellow boarder Edith on the way to the rock formation, it is referred to how Michael witnesses this and later thinks back to it (p.25), evoking the interpretation that something terrible happens between these two timelines which makes this mundane sight somehow more important. In fact, this will turn out to be the last time somebody saw the group of girls together, but all characters are unsuspecting of this truth then. At the picnic grounds, the girls and their supervisors suddenly lose the devices to measure time properly, yet they try to stick to their schedule (compare again pp.18f). Meanwhile, the girls venturing off into the outback experience something similar: At first, they, too, refer to passing of time in form of minutes, and Miranda keeps reminding the others about how they had to get back soon (e.g. p.28). But at some point of going deeper into the rock formation, their conception of time seems to vanish, the loss of a sense of time even increased by them falling asleep (p.31), as do their inhibitions (p.28). The atmosphere shifts to one that is detached from the order of society and that is almost ethereal, and the girls seem to lose touch, taking off their shoes and dancing on the rocks (p.30). It is then that time seems to slow down, caught in a mysterious haze, until Edith – the only one who has not become a victim of whatever it is that bewitches her friends – snaps and hastily returns to the picnic grounds (p.32). From the later police report of Mr. Hussey, it becomes apparent that Edith’s disruptive reaction triggers time to speed up when panic breaks lose (p.40). As Mr. Hussey also states in his account that by the time they started searching for the girls, they had no way of telling the time at all anymore (p.41) – the Hanging Rock had begun its witching hour. 

            As the perspective switches to the impatient Mrs. Appleyard waiting for her staff and students to return, the perceived time stands still. Both the headmistress and the readers are anxious to know what is going on, fearing something tragic has happened (p.37). The woman creates an unbearable atmosphere of impatience, checking the clock a dozen times and straining to hear a nearing carriage (p.36). Remembering that the days at Appleyard college are usually strictly time managed and organized, everything seems to fall out of place, strengthening the assumption that bad news ought to be expected. 

After that, everything is in a mess, reality appears warped and time not linear: “For the inmates of Appleyard College, Sunday the fifteenth of February was a day of nightmare indecision: half dream, half reality […].” (p.43) The report on the happenings of Sunday the 15th are rather lengthy (pp.43-47), similar to the ride to the picnic grounds. Monday, the college apparently tries to go back to how things were before (“Meals were served with their customary clockwork precision, but only a few of the usually ravenous young women […] did more than trifle with the mutton and apple pie.”, p.47), but the lives of everyone touched by the incident are changed. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are overloaded with more dates, time specifications, and detailed conversations with witnesses, so that it appears as if time had to have slowed down in order to encompass so many little things taking place, and the 3 days after the vanishing of the girls and their teacher seem like the longest ones in history (pp.43-59), especially to those who are left with the mystery.

Final thoughts

Joan Lindsay is incredibly skilled in utilizing time for her storytelling. Elements like clocks and time telling are used to signify a contrast between the mundanity of the real world, and the bewitching aura that encases the Hanging Rock. A mix of overly detailed reports of what is happening and what is said stretch the perceived time in the novel, while rapid time jumps and changes of behavior like Edith’s speed it up, to the effect that Lindsay’s audience can feel the insufferableness that is the mystery of the students and their teacher who disappeared during their picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Long Road Leading up to the Australian Film Revival, Part I

The history of the Australian film industry can be summarized as a continuous rise and fall that ultimately reached its peak with the New Australian Cinema of the 1970s. On the path towards this high point lay a great number of obstacles. Economic recessions had to be overcome, governments had to be convinced, and talent had to be nurtured. Eventually, however, all that was settled and, for a decade-long period, Australian filmmakers blossomed. Gone were the days when only foreign productions could dominate the big screen: The days when the Americans and the British flooded the market with narratives of their past. And when, every so often, they tried to interpret Australian stories through their foreign gaze. Within a decade, over 120 nationally produced feature films reclaimed what it meant to be Australian (Stratton xvi, Hall 8). Generation-defining directors like Gillian Armstrong, George Miller, Phillip Noyce, Fred Schepisi, and Peter Weir suddenly came to the forefront and convinced the whole world that Australian cinema demanded their attention.

This abridged version of events can seem quite overwhelming and hard to believe. Indeed, it would be remiss to say that the Australian New Wave swept the nation in one smooth motion. The chief visionaries and advocates for this snapshot in time were Phillip Adams and Barry Jones (Stratton 10, Hall 9). Years earlier, they started the fight to break down the barriers that prevented Australian filmmakers from thriving in their own country. Once it all clicked into place, Australian directors profited from this effort, as they could finally roam free. Supporters of this newfound artistic freedom tried to hold onto it as if their lives depended on it, but they could only hold on for so long. The Australian Film Renaissance did not last. Too many new battles had to be fought to defend it against the mounting pressure to turn the Australian film industry into a lucrative business. Personal passion projects rarely succeed at the box office and were thus soon replaced by safer commercially oriented films. But to actually understand all the minutiae of this, it is really necessary to start at the beginning. The ups and downs of Australian film history go from the silent era to the talkies, from local productions to foreign imports, and from privately funded movies to government financed films.

The Moving Pictures

When the Lumière brothers patented their cinématographe device in 1895, they knew that their invention could take the world by storm. As a result, about a year and a half later, they sent Marius Sestier to Australia to privately demonstrate their apparatus at the Royal Lyceum Theater in Sydney. His audience was enthralled and quickly concluded that Sestier also needed to capture Australia with this device. For this endeavor, Sestier partnered up with the established Australian photographer Henry Walter Barnett. They decided that Barnett would use his artistic vision to compose the moving pictures, while Sestier would use his technical expertise to operate the cinématographe. Together, they shot the first Australian short film, Passengers Alighting from Ferry Brighton at Manly (1896), and later screened it to the public in Sydney’s newly opened Salon Lumière. Afterwards, they traveled to Melbourne and set their eyes onto a new target. The Melbourne Cup Carnival was in town, and they tried to document every aspect of it. Fifteen short films were produced and presented to the public in a selected chronological order as The Melbourne Cup (1896).

From that point on, it did not take long until more and more venues started to show locally produced and internationally imported motion pictures. Film soon became “a part of Australian life,” so that “by 1900 the foundations of a film industry in Australia had been laid. Most European producers had Australian sales representatives; production facilities were established; and patterns of exhibition pioneered” (Sabine 25). One of the first film studios in the world was the Limelight Department, which was run by The Salvation Army in Melbourne. They produced one of the earliest narrative films, Soldiers of the Cross (1900), which features “a combination of slides, film, music, and commentary” (Haltof 5). At more than three times the length, this multimedia presentation actually predates the more commonly known American film The Great Train Robbery (1903). The latter was also shown in Australia and had a particular effect on Charles Tait, who set out to make his own film a couple of years later. He directed “one the world’s first feature length films,” The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), which ran for more than an hour (Stratton 1). It depicted the life of the notorious outlaw Ned Kelly, but actually portrayed him as the hero fighting against villainous police.

Theatergoers were highly delighted, and filmmakers took notice. The success of this narrative established “the distinct Australian genre of the bushranger” films (Haltof 5). However, this proven formula came under scrutiny when state governments concluded that these films caused a recent rise in crime rate. The bushranger bans of 1911 and 1912 brought a swift end to the production and exhibition of this genre of film. A young industry was devastated and had to suddenly rethink its approach to telling stories.

With World War I on the horizon, Australian filmmakers were eager to come back into favor with their government. The military was glad to see patriotic motion pictures on the silver screen and thus rewarded the industry with additional funding for movies “promoting the war effort” (5). These thinly veiled propaganda films mystified the Australian contribution to the Great War and were cheered on by their audience. Movies thus were briefly transformed into military recruiting devices that even ended with a concrete call to action.

Once the war ended, the industry hit the reset button and “Raymond Longford emerge[d] as the key figure of this [new] era” (Stratton 1). He directed two “classics of the Australian silent cinema,” The Sentimental Bloke (1919) and On Our Selection (1920) (1–2). “The former, especially, is deservedly celebrated for its stylistic and technical mastery as well as for its ‘Australianess,’” which reflects the “simple values and enduring sentiments” of the common people (Haltof 5, Stratton 1–2). Longford preferred a realistic approach that openly embraced the Australian “vernacular, colloquial humor, and the naturalism of the Woolloomooloo (Sydney’s working-class area) scenes” (Haltof 5). For example, in the opening of the film, the Bloke attends an illegal game of two-up. He gambles away the little money he has left, and the situation soon starts to turn even worse:

Another standout from this period was Franklyn Barrett, who directed the heartfelt The Breaking of the Drought (1920) and A Girl of the Bush (1921). By the mid-twenties, however, Australian theaters almost completely ceased to show local productions. “[A] flood of American films onto the Australian market precipitated the industry’s first crisis,” as stars like “[Rudolph] Valentino, [Greta] Garbo, Clara Bow, Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, [and] John Barrymore … were swamping the cinemas of the world” (Stratton 1, 2).

To counter this new American box office dominance, Australasian Films reached deep into its pockets to produce the highly ambitious For the Term of His Natural Life (1927). The studio envisioned that this story based on an Australian literary classic could be the breakthrough hit that establishes them internationally. Raymond Longford seemed like the obvious choice for director, especially since he so openly proclaimed his passion for this project. “[B]ut the investors decreed that an American must be imported to do the job and, inexplicably, they imported an unknown, Norman Dawn (Stratton 2).” Similarly, the popular American actor George Fisher was cast to play the leading role of Rufus Dawe, a young Australian who is falsely accused of murder and shipped to Van Diemen’s Land. His love interest is also portrayed by another admired American actor, Eva Novak. In a big blow to the local industry, Australasian Films chose no Australian talent in any of the marquee positions. The aspiration to appeal to the international market superseded, but also meant that the budget kept rising, until it hit “the then staggering sum of £60,000.” Lengthy negotiations prolonged the release of the final film so much that “by the time For the Term of His Natural Life was ready for cinema screens, the silent film was almost a thing of the past” (2). Indeed, the first sound film, The Jazz Singer (1927), came out the same year and astonished audiences when it actually said out loud: “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.” It took the Australian silent classic two more years to finally make its way into the American theaters, and at that point audiences were understandably underwhelmed. For the Term of His Natural Life was a success in Australia, but a flop overseas: “A big gamble had failed to pay off. Thus Australian filmmakers went into the talkie era with their spirits low” (2).

The Talking Pictures

The Australian film industry was too slow to adapt to the technological invention of sound film. Their yearly production rate plummeted from one of the highest in the world to almost a complete standstill. In 1926, Australian filmmakers released sixteen films, but by 1930 they were no longer able to produce more than three films per year (Stratton 2). The industry was shaken to its core and in danger of a total collapse, but ultimately was rescued by three prolific filmmakers: F.W. Thring, Charles Chauvel, and Ken G. Hall (2).

Francis William Thring was the first Australian director to fully embrace the talking pictures. He even went so far as to establish a new studio dedicated to their cause. Efftee Studios opened up its doors in 1930 and was supposed to reign in a new era. Within a two year turnaround, Thring directed his first sound film, His Royal Highness (1932). This musical based on an earlier stage show was popular enough to finance further pursuits in this endeavor. Most notably, Thring also produced The Sentimental Bloke (1932), Harmony Row (1933), and Clara Gibbings (1934). However, Australian movie theaters were still “dominated by foreign product,” which made it particularly challenging for Thring to release his films (2). This hurdle proved to be too hard to overcome, so that Efftee Studios had to eventually close down in 1934.

Charles Chauvel did not have to face such difficulties, since his epic films were already sensations upon their initial release (3). By visualizing major historical events, Chauvel was able to capitalize upon audiences’ innate interest in these stories. Thus, he directed In the Wake of the Bounty (1933), a new dramatization of the mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789; Heritage (1935), a retelling of the colonization of Australia spanning over 150 years; Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940), a chronicle of the Australian Light Horse cavalry in World War I; and The Rats of Tobruk (1944), a tale about the Australian Army’s defense of a Libyan city in World War II. Not all of Chauvel’s career was a walk in the park, though. When he set out to direct Sons of Matthew (1949), he had to endure the harshest production conditions imaginable. Chauvel decided to shoot on location in Queensland during one of the wettest seasons in recorded history. The area was constantly flooded and even temporarily stranded him and his crew in a small base camp with dwindling supplies. Throughout their first six months on set, the rain did not stop. They went to Sydney for two months and then returned to Queensland for another five months of rain. After an unprecedented eighteen months of production, the film’s budget had blown up to be more than twice the usual rate, clocking in at around £120,000. All that was forgiven, though, when Australians finally saw the film’s climax that beautifully captured this battle against the elements:

Kenneth George Hall had yet another approach for success. When he founded Cinesound Productions in 1931, he was keenly aware of the restrictions of his time (Hall 8). The thinly stretched budgets of the Great Depression did not allow any margin of error. To make ends meet, Hall had to guarantee that he could turn a profit every year. Thus, Hall ventured into safer genre films that offered much needed escapism for a disheartened society. His Dad and Dave comedies, in particular, brought smiles back on Australian faces. The popular characters from the short stories by Steele Rudd were reimagined in On Our Selection (1932), and expanded upon in Granddad Rudd (1935), Dad and Dave Come to Town (1938), and Dad Rudd, M.P. (1940). George Wallace, “that most quintessential of thirties comedians” (Stratton 2), also did his best to entertain theatergoers, when he teamed up with Hall for Let George Do It (1938) and Gone to the Dogs (1939). Another way to lift up the spirits was to show melodramas that ended on a happy note. Thus, Hall directed films about a young, independent farm girl, The Squatter’s Daughter (1933), an unfaithful clergyman, The Silence of Dean Maitland (1934), a naive graduate from forestry school, Tall Timbers (1937), and an expelled violinist, The Broken Melody (1938). But he also directed more action driven movies that featured the adventures of a struggling horse trainer, Thoroughbred (1936), a boxing kangaroo, Orphan of the Wilderness (1936), and a pearl diving concert pianist, Lovers and Luggers (1937). Any profits that these films made were immediately invested into future projects (Hall 8). This tremendous turnaround made Hall the most prolific director of his time.

However, as World War II geared up, the Australian film industry came to a breaking point. In 1940, even Cinesound ceased its production of commercially successful films in fear of their financial risk. This sentiment proved to be emblematic of a much larger trend that persisted even for decades after the war ended. Charles Chauvel only directed one more film, Jedda (1955), which ended up being the first Australian feature film to be shot in color. But even new technological advancements like this could not revive the local film industry. The 1950s and 1960s marked a new low point in the yearly production rate of Australian movies. In fact, from 1962 to 1965 not a single feature film was shot (Haltof 5–6). That is why Ken G. Hall decries these decades as Australia’s “Dark Ages,” in which years and talent have been shamefully wasted (Hall 8–9).

The American and British film industries were not as severely impacted and instead quickly recovered to some sort of new normalcy. Nevertheless, they did notice that after the war fewer people returned to the theaters. To entice audiences to come back, overseas filmmakers thought they needed to show something new. As a result, many American and British directors traveled to Australia to film in a new “cheap location” that offered “an exotic backdrop for exotic stories” (Haltof 5). The British arrived first in Australia. Ealing Studios made a couple of quick stops to produce The Overlanders (1946), Eureka Stockade (1949), and Bitter Springs (1950), before they moved on to East Africa. A couple of years later, they returned again to film The Shiralee (1957) and The Siege of Pinchgut (1959), but had since realized that they only needed to capture the exterior shots in Australia (Stratton 4). The interiors were filmed back home in London, which meant that Australia saw even less of a boost to the local industry. The Rank Organisation employed the same tactic when they produced Robbery Under Arms (1957). The Americans, however, put more stock into their Australian projects and invested millions to film Kangaroo (1952), Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1959), On the Beach (1959), and The Sundowners (1960).

All in all, the 1950s and 1960s were a tormenting time for Australian film professionals. Almost no more movies were produced and when they were, they rarely hired local talent. Sure, “[i]t was exciting to have internationally known directors” and actors working in the country, but they were not producing Australian films (4). They had a different vision altogether. American and British directors filtered “Australian stories … through [their] foreign eyes” and employed “foreign actors [who] were pretending to be Australians” (4). They came into this country in search of new exotic sensations. They claimed its identity and displayed it on the big screen. And the actual Australians were left sitting in the dark movie theaters wondering what exactly it was they were seeing. It was not them, so much was for sure. At the time, the Australian journalist Tom Fitzgerald commented upon this experience by saying: “Our voices are thin and so weakly articulated as to be barely audible to visitors when they step ashore. The daydreams we get from celluloid are not Australian daydreams” (Haltof 6). A change of direction was desperately needed.

The history of the Australian cinema continues in Part II with the organization, the arrival, and the collapse of the New Wave. Be sure to come back later this month and check it out.

Work Cited

Hall, Ken G. Introduction. The New Australian Cinema, edited by Scott Murray, Elm Tree Books, 1980, pp. 8–9. Internet Archive,

Haltof, Marek. Peter Weir. When Cultures Collide. Twayne Publishers, 1996. Internet Archive,

Sabine, James. A Century of Australian Cinema. William Heinemann Australia, 1995.

Stratton, David. The Last New Wave. The Australian Film Revival. Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1980. Internet Archive,

Australian Gothic vs. European Gothic

by Leonora Rexhi

The Gothic is a rather broad genre. There are different versions across the globe. Subcategories are, for example, the Australian Gothic, the European Gothic and the American Gothic. All of them are relatively similar to each other, but they still differ in various aspects. Nevertheless, it applies for all subcategories that in general the Gothic genre is a genre where the unnatural and unconventional is represented.
This blog post will be about the Australian Gothic genre versus the European Gothic genre. What are the characteristics of each genre and are there similarities or differences?

Let’s start with the European Gothic genre. The European Gothic is mainly characterized by an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The mood is evoked by a threatening feeling, often a fear enhanced by something unknown. The settings of a typical European Gothic text can vary, but for the most part they are very similar and have the same aspects. The typical setting is usually “in a castle, old mansions” (Harris, 2021) ”dense woods, a graveyard, and a wild moorland which all have powerful associations with isolations and loneliness” (Rose, 2021) (or the ruins of a castle.) Different elements like ”burials, flickering candles, evil potions” (Nolan, 2019) add the mystical character to the European Gothic genre and enhance the Gothic mood. Often the location is associated with a sad past/story; usually it is death, or something related to it. The effect of this scary and especially dark environment is to trigger a feeling, a sense of unease, ”which adds to the atmospheric element of fear and dread.” (Harris, 2021) The writer uses the setting to create ”an atmosphere of trepidation, threat or decay” (Rose, 2021).

The Australian genre, on the contrary, deals with many elements of European Gothic, but additionally has other characteristics that are clearly in the foreground. The Australian Gothic genre emerged out of the colonial era and is therefore characterized by elements of colonialism. In the Australian Gothic genre, the ”colonial experience of isolation, disorientation, hardship” (Althans 15), the ”fear of pursuit and fear of the unknown” (Althans 15) and entrapment is expressed. It can be said that the Australian Gothic is similar to the European one and cannot be completely detached from it, but it adds an Australian touch, which makes it special in its own way. Additionally, it has a different setting than the ”usual” Gothic setting. This is, as one can tell from the name, an Australian setting, with the typical landscapes, deserts and isolated stations. Many writers in colonial times were compelled to demonstrate the superiority of civilization over nature, but Aboriginal Gothic works in particular work against that reductive tendency.

In conclusion, both genres are similar, but they also differ. Both genres share aspects of creepiness and fear. At the same time, however, they differ because the Australian Gothic genre also brings a historic background with it which is thematized. Many elements are necessary to contribute to the Gothic setting, whether it is the European or the Australian, and it is their differences which highlight why we should be interested in them.

Works Cited:
Althans, Katrin, Introduction & Aboriginal Gothic in Darkness Subverted, 2010

Harris, R. (2021, 10. Januar). Elements of the Gothic Novel. VirtualSalt.

Nolan, A. (2019, 4. November). The Top 10 Elements of Gothic Literature. Invaluable.

Rose, J. (2021, 21. August). How to Study Gothic Literature: Setting and Themes. The Tutor Team.

Othering and Orientalism in “A Pearling Tale” by Maxine McArthur

The short story A Pearling Tale by Maxine McArthur is about Jiro Aoyanagi, a diver who is forced to go on a boat ride with his crew at the end of the diving season. His job is to dive for pearl shells which the crew later sells for profit. On this boat ride, however, Kamei, another diver of the crew, dies underwater. For this reason, the crew decides to return home after Jiro was tasked to obtain Kamei’s lost shell bag. While on their way home, they are approached by a ghost ship. The ghosts onboard demand to have Kamei’s body and threaten the crew, even though giving them what they want would also mean death for the crew. Jiro is the only one who knows how to deal with the ghosts and saves his crew by throwing Kamei’s broken shell bag onto the ghost ship, earning some respect from Flynn, the boat’s master and tender.

In A Pearling Tale readers can find many situations in which both “Othering” and “Orientalism” play a huge role. Already at the beginning of the short story, Jiro is characterized as different than those
around him. His otherness is not kept a secret, and instead often referred to, especially in comparison to Flynn, who is portrayed as Jiro’s direct counterpart.

Jiro is depicted as an Asian who believes in Ebisu, the God of the Sea. His worship for Ebisu is frowned upon not only by other citizens but also by Flynn, who is presumably white and, just like other people, doesn’t think that Ebisu can exist in their country. He is equally convinced that the Sea doesn’t belong to all countries, only to his own, and shuts down Jiro’s attempts at arguing with him, forcing him to work instead. This power dynamic between Flynn and Jiro is constantly evident throughout the short story and only flipped at the end.

On board the ship, Flynn is focused on making money and doesn’t care about the consequences. He doesn’t fear the mysteries that lie beneath the sea; nor does he fear ghosts, unlike the rest of his crew, which seems to mostly consist of Asians. Portrayed as calm and rational, Flynn stays focused on making profit even when Kamei dies and doesn’t feel unease like Jiro and the rest of the crew. He forces Jiro to dive back down to retrieve Kamei’s lost shell bag and only then agrees to sail back home due to the complaints and worries of the crew.

When the crew is attacked by a ghost ship on their way home, however, Jiro is the only one who can save them. But even when confronted with the truth that Jiro’s beliefs were correct and that ghosts do exist, Flynn still largely keeps his composure, except for a brief moment during which even he prays to his own God. Flynn refuses to hand over Kamei’s body to the ghost ship, convinced that no one would believe them if they claimed that they were attacked by ghosts who demanded Kamei’s body. He argues against the other crew members who believe that their only way out of the situation is to give the ghosts what they want.

Jiro, who had no choice but to do everything Flynn asked of him whether he liked it or not, gains power at this point of the short story. He is the only one who knows how to deal with the ghosts and ends up saving his crew. It is his Otherness that prevails in the end and manages to earn him the respect of Flynn. While Flynn continues to order the crew around as if nothing happened at the end of the short story, he also acknowledges that Jiro was correct about his God.

Flynn grinned and clapped him on the shoulders.

“Sea god all country, eh, boyo.”


A big part of Jiro’s otherness lies in the depiction of orientalism connected to him. He believes in different Gods, as well as in ghosts and other mysteries. The power one culture holds over another, mostly represented through Flynn and Jiro, is equally typical in orientalism. This superiority is also portrayed through Muratsu. Muratsu is a character who also owns boats, speaks the same language as his crew, and believes in the same Gods as Jiro. But it seems to be this exoticness of Muratsu which hinders him from being as successful as Flynn. He doesn’t own the newest diving dress which offers more protection to divers, allowing them to find more pearl shells and thus gain more profit. His counterpart Flynn does own the state-of-the-art diving gear and is for that reason more successful and superior.

However, in comparison to other works in which orientalism and otherness play a huge role, A Pearling Tale uses them to defuse some of the usual depictions of white superiority, and of the Other being something abhorrent. It succeeds in doing so by inverting Jiro and Flynn’s positions at the end, making Jiro the hero of the story who manages to gain the respect of someone who had previously seen him as the Other and thus considered him inferior.


  • McArthur, Maxine. “A Pearling Tale.” In Baggage. Tales of Speculative Fiction, edited by Gillian Polack. Borgo Press, 2014. 110-120

The Genres of Speculative Fiction – An Overview

by Nadja Marek, Renee Czyganowski, Danny Tran, and Ann-Sophie Ludwig

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term that contains many different genres. Generally speaking, it deals with topics such as nature (or the supernatural) and alternate realities, either in the past or future. It tries to make sense of the world by combining history with the supernatural and imaginary. Genres that count as speculative fiction are fantasy, horror and science fiction. These can also be divided into more specific categories, for example stories that entail ghost stories, magic realism, utopian and dystopian or apocalyptic and post apocalyptic elements. In this blog post, we want to give you an overview of the different genres and their key aspects that distinguish one from another.

Fantasy and Magic Realism

The Fantasy genre commonly features supernatural elements and magic, things that obviously do not exist in our world. Creative freedom is intrinsically tied to this particular genre unlike any other. Unrestricted by physical laws, fantasy offers a glimpse of what life could be like, if there was a sense of underlying magic in our world. Coinciding with the name, the genre of magic realism combines notions of a real world with fantasy and magic. The literary aspect of magic realism gained traction in the 1930, when Venezuelan author Arturo Uslar-Pietri wrote a number of influential short stories, focusing on both mystery and the reality of life.  The overall setting is commonly grounded in a realistic but supernatural manner, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Arguably the most defining characteristic of this particular genre is the aspect of relatability; the story must take place in a real world that the reader is familiar with or can easily identify themselves with. In the world of magic realism, magic is an element that most characters are accustomed to, showcasing how modern life could be like with a supernatural twist. The genre of magic realism is distinguishable from regular fantasy by taking into account realistic elements and especially the style of realism, as it would otherwise fall under the aforementioned genre. This amalgamation of both relatability and the fantastical offers a uniquely inclusive approach to storytelling, as it is easier to grasp onto things the reader is already familiar with. 

Horror and Ghost Stories

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (Lovecraft 1927) Horror is a genre that contains elements of the supernatural and unnatural which serve the purpose to scare and repulse the reader. Often, it uses themes such as death, decay, monsters and blood to create an uncanny atmosphere that is noticeable and distinguishes it from any other genre. Moreover, it combines eerie descriptions of nature and the unnatural to make the reader feel frightened. Themes, such as the uncanny valley or monster theory help to understand that fear comes from something unfamiliar and something unknown that cannot be trusted. Horror plays with these themes to intentionally confront the reader with dreadful and shocking images and situations. In modern media it established the sub category of art horror which entails the interplay between threat and disgust. 

When looking at the different types of horror it is important to look at the difference between psychological horror and supernatural horror. The former uses emotional and mental circumstances to unsettle the reader and picks up themes such as insanity, whereas the latter deals with monsters and the unknown, such as ghosts, to make the reader feel frightened. 

Ghost stories are a subcategory of the horror genre and deal with, like the name already states, the appearances of ghosts. “A Splinter of Darkness” by Isobelle Carmody is an example of a horror short story. It deals with the uncanny because the child Paul is visited by a girl that only comes out when his parents aren’t home and she is persuading him to do unspeakable things to free others of her kind. The story uses the element of the unknown and secrecy as a tool to create a scary environment.

Science Fiction, Utopian/Dystopian and (Post-)Apocalyptic Literature

The words science and fiction at first glance represent a paradox, two terms that have nothing in common. However, put together they represent the great world of science fiction. The science fiction genre depicts the imagination of what science and its methods could have been, could be able to do, or become. It concerns itself with the question: what if? What if there would be a world where no one has to die? What if our world would be destroyed due to a scientific error? What if nature would turn on the human race? Science fiction often shows an opposite view to the life that we are used to and when it does relate to the world as we know it, there is always a big change to it, the so-called novum. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (3rd edition) the transformation to the world can occur due to technological inventions but it can also “involve some mutation of known biological or physical reality, e.g. time travel, extraterrestrial invasion, ecological catastrophe.” Due to the immense amount of possibilities for transformation, the genre of science fiction includes a range of subgenres such as for example utopian, dystopian and (post-)apocalyptic writing. Utopia and Dystopia present two opposing worldviews. Where utopian fiction presents a kind of perfect world, dystopian fiction presents a flawed one. Often dystopian and (post-)apocalyptic fiction are knit together tightly as an imperfect world is often presented as the result of an apocalyptic event. An example for this would be Jeremy Szal’s short story “The Weight of Silence”, which is set in Australia and deals with the aftermath of an attack through spiders that overtook the country. It presents a time of war and crisis through a before unknown force and shows how the survivors try to cope in their changed world. 


In this blog post, we talked about different genres, such as “Fantasy and Magic Realism”, “Horror and Ghost stories”, and “Science Fiction and Utopian/Dystopian and (Post-)Apocalyptic literature”. But most of the time, stories are not written for a specific genre and categorizing them can be a bit tricky. A fantasy book can contain elements of horror stories or a dystopian short story can be considered a fantasy story as well. Stories are still divided into different genres to make it easier for the reader to find specific topics, but their content is still overlapping in genre. Therefore, we have the term speculative fiction which describes fiction that deals with elements that do not exist in reality.


  • Carmody, Isobelle. 1995. A Splinter of Darkness. In Gary Crew, Dark House, 219-236.
  • Lovecraft, H.P. 1973. Supernatural Horror in literature. Dover Publications Inc. 
  • Szal, Jeremy. “The Weight of Silence.” Pacific Monsters, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, Fox Spirit Books, 2017, pp. 83-89.

Review of the novel “When the Moon was Ours” (2016) by Anna-Marie McLemore

by Mira Kalcker

„This is the thing I learned from loving a transgender boy who took years to say his own name: that waiting with someone, existing in that quiet, wondering space with them when they need it, is worth all the words we have in us.”

McLemore, (page Number to be added)

The final sentence of Anna-Marie McLemore’s Author’s Note in When the Moon Was Ours speaks for the whole of their brilliant, partly autobiographical novel. When the Moon was Ours tells the story of Sam and Miel, best friends living in a small town and each with more secrets than most teenagers carry. Sam paints moons he hangs all over the town and Miel grows roses from her wrist that everyone knows about. But beneath this, even more secrets are hidden. For Sam, it is his gender identity, the fact that almost no one knows that the body beneath his clothes has been assigned female at birth. Miel’s secrets, on the other hand, lie even deeper than that, buried in the pages you need to read for yourself if you want to uncover them.

The novel is something completely different from all the books I have read so far, even though my bookshelves are filled with Young Adult Literature. And it makes me wonder and even a little bit frustrated that this so important and unique novel is widely unknown. While one could argue about the slow pace of the plot, McLemore explores topics that are incredibly relevant, not only for our time but especially for young adults who grow up in this world and do not quite seem to fit in anywhere.

The most obvious theme is the one of Sam’s gender identity. Samir or Samira? is the question that is being constantly asked throughout the novel. McLemore’s husband himself is transgender and as the quote from the beginning of the article already tells, they were by his side when he found himself. This makes their work so credible, writing about something that they are clearly knowledgeable of, and as they say, they also talked to their husband about his journey. Sam struggles throughout the novel with all factors, from societal to his own feelings but ultimately comes to a conclusion which is nicely done.

However, what I personally did not really like is that they introduced the concept of bacha posh to this conflict. “Bacha posh is one way of adapting to a rigid social environment where having a son is a must for any family desiring prestige and security. Families that can’t produce a son sometimes resort to this deception, dressing up one of their girls as a boy and presenting her as a male offspring to society.” (Guardian, According to McLemore, this concept is mainly practiced some regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan and ends with the bacha posh returning to women when they are of age. Sam inhabits this role when he and his mother repeatedly experience cultural discrimination. While I appreciate the idea to represent a wider range of cultural concepts, I am simply not sure how brilliant McLemore’s idea truly was. Personally, I miss the credibility for why they took up bacha posh in their novel, what their connection to it is. It simply seems really random, even in the Author’s Note. Naturally, one might wonder how easily the bacha posh can later move into the role of a woman, as McLemore says, however I see tying bacha posh so tightly to being transgender as slightly problematic. It seems like an easy, overly simplified answer to the question how bacha posh impact the girl’s (or in this case, boy’s) gender identity. Especially since performativity, gender roles etc. are such an incredibly complex topic, I cannot help but think that McLemore bit off more than they can chew.

But the idea of bacha posh already points to another theme, McLemore discusses: transculturality. “When the Moon Was Ours” gently and xy speaks of what it means to grow up as a generational immigrant, from cultural practices, such as food or tales, to discrimination the characters experience. Miel is Latine [1], just as McLemore themself, Sam is Pakistani. The author also points to the idea that marginalised people always have to try harder in order to be accepted. For example, Sam’s mother is widely liked despite being Pakistani because she does exceptional work for the townspeople. Aracely, Miel’s sister and a healer, on the other hand, is quick to be judged, even though she does help people as well but within a cultural practice. Naturally, the cultural topics reach even deeper but that is something you will have to find out for yourselves. Concerning discrimination, When the Moon was Ours also touches upon internalised homophobia and how blinding it can be.

Another theme that When the Moon was Ours explores is how to find one’s own identity outside of a fixed community. McLemore does so by introducing the Bonner sisters who represent a fierce unit, a unit that has already gotten cracks when the plot of the novel begins. Developing uniquely in a fixed environment is an issue most people face growing up. Finding individuality can be scary because it usually means that the relationships we have with the people around us change. This means that we lose security and have to face our true selves. McLemore quite cleverly works this issue into her story and it becomes even more apparent through a second read.

All in all, and despite my criticism, I strongly recommend When the Moon was Ours to anyone who wants to think a little more outside of the boxes. A little magical fairy tale, a little coming-of-age story and a lot of diversity is what I would describe When the Moon was Ours as. And I personally think this is a beautiful and powerful combination.

[1] The genderneutral term “Latinx” is likely more well-known to our readers. However, most Latine people do not appreciate the term and use the more linguistically appropriate “Latine” – including McLemore.

A lifetime of poetry – Why you should read “The Black Flamingo”

How can a seemingly simple story of a boy coming of age and coming to terms with his identity be transformed into a visual journey, a tale telling of its time? In Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo (2019), this is achieved with a mix of stylistic choices: the novel features a beautiful mix of poetry, illustrations that underline the narrative, and modern means of visual communication like chat rooms. While this makes this Young Adult novel easy and quick to read, it is not a light read necessarily – the story of protagonist Michael, a queer boy with a mixed Cypriot-Jamaican heritage, is not that light and simple at all.

Michael is brought up by a single mother with little contact to his father, struggling to fully connect to either of his parents’ cultures, or the one of the country he grows up in. The reader gets to accompany him through his most formative years and memories: from a six year old boy who desperately wants a Barbie for his birthday, even though his friends find it a bit strange; a boy that is bullied at school because he doesn’t like to brawl and rather sings; a boy that tries to explore his sexuality in an environment in which nobody else seems to relate to his feelings; and finally one, who learns to have the courage and self-respect to embrace his identity, no matter what expectations others lay on him. While important topics like trauma, harassment, and drug abuse are addressed, the reader doesn’t finish the book with a heavy heart, but with a new hope and confidence – Michael has been through a lot, but in the end, he gets through all of it and finds himself to be happy. 

Atta’s novel is one of a kind for two reasons: the intersectionality that is often left out in the most famous coming of age stories in popular media, and the intermediality already addressed before. Intersectionality in this context refers to how Michael’s identity is made up of a variety of elements. He has parents with strongly differing cultural heritages, both of which do not completely fit in with Michael’s English school environment and friend group, but he is also a member of the queer community, which leaves him doubly marginalized and prone to two kinds of discrimination, making his experiences unique to his persona. 

Intermediality allows the reader to dive into Michael’s world. We experience his thoughts and feelings firsthand through the poetry he writes, beautifully illustrated in form of real pages of a notebook at times, see pictures of what he is referring to which emphasize his inner world, and can read the text messages he exchanges with peers in ways in which classic written text could not, for example by the implementation of emojis with specific cultural and generational meanings attached to them.

Most importantly though, Atta tells a story that is believable. Even if Michael is one of a kind with an arrange of specific experiences, there is always something in them that the reader can relate to in one way or another. There is nothing over-the-top fairy tale-esque or obviously forced traumatic happening – what Michael faces along his journey is as things realistically could be, and have been for some, and Atta tells them in the most authentic manner. 

Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo is the novel we all would have wished to have had while growing up. The bitter-sweet story shows the ugly truths of growing up doubly marginalized in an artistic way, with the good and the bad, without painting a grim picture. If you plan to invest your time in a novel, invest it in this one!