Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Meet Me at the Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina

Meet Me at the Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina is an anthology filled with intersectional Australian voices. The idea being to highlight all sorts of marginalised writers. Taken as a whole, this results in a very broad and diverse anthology. Although I am familiar with the two editors from the spec fic books they've authored, most of the stories did not have a speculative bent, although there were a few.

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices.

Some of the stories were fun to read, some were intentionally uncomfortable, other fell somewhere in between those two extremes and made me think. Note that I use "stories" here in a generic sense to refer to all the pieces in the anthology, even though it included poetry and memoir. My two favourite stories gained that status for very different reasons. ‘Stars in our Eyes’ by Jessica Walton was a delightful celebration of geek culture, while including queer and disabled characters and refreshingly supportive characters. ‘The Last Stop’ by Alice Pung was not at all what I expected from the opening and is a story that firmly fell into the "made me think" category. It tells of the journey of a teen boy who starts off ignorant of Chinese culture but ends up learning that Chinese teenagers are just like him (but live in China). His experiences were starkly contrasted with those of various people around him.

I enjoyed a lot of the other stories too, but since I've written mini reviews of them all, I'll leave them for you to read below if you haven't already seen them in one of my #ReadShortStories posts. I will add, however, that I was a bit sad that the ebook I read didn't include the back cover art, since the (full) cover art is apparently also one of the intersectional pieces making up the whole. It wouldn't have been hard to include the full artwork inside the book (either near the start or at the back) and I'm disappointed that the publisher didn't bother.

Overall, this was a great read. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to read more diverse voices or stories of Australia's chequered history. I liked how the anthology was structured, with stories grouped thematically, so that it opened with stories by indigenous people, and ended with stories of the migrant experience, with stories about characters who are queer and/or disabled (or overlapping with one of the other groups) in groups in the middle. The whole book is like a thematic rainbow, shading from one group to another, with overlapping stories in between.

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‘Night Feet’ by Ellen van Neerven — A story about a teenaged girl playing soccer. And a bit how poverty and family circumstances are hurdles to that end. I expect the story would be more exciting for people who are into soccer, which I am not.

‘Dream’ by Graham Akhurst — A poem with formatting that didn’t work on my phone screen and was much more powerful when I was able to read it on the iPad. It’s also the kind of poem that becomes clearer with subsequent readings.

‘Dear Mate’ by Kyle Lynch — A distressing story, in some ways, about a young person who wants a job but has little idea how to get one. Although I didn’t realise how young he was until near the end, which did make it a bit less distressing.

‘Embers’ by Ezekiel Kwaymullina — A sad, short poem about dyslexia.

‘Harry Potter and the Disappearing Pages’ by Olivia Muscat — An essay/memoir about the author going blind at the start of high school and the frustrations of being disabled in modern society.

‘Fragments’ by Mimi Lee — The story of a young Chinese Australian dealing with her grandfather’s death and a difficult family situation. This was an interesting read but in some ways (the mental illness ways more than the grief ways) felt like it ily scratched the surface. I wouldn’t have minded it being longer but I can see why it made sense to leave it where it was. 4/5 30/12

‘Stars in our Eyes’ by Jessica Walton — A wonderful story about geeky teens and adults that made me laugh. Certainly the most fun story so far.

‘Trouble’ by Kelly Gardiner — A story of non-conforming girls in 1950s Melbourne. I enjoyed the local colour even if the end was not quite as I had hoped/shipped.

‘Sheer Fortune’ by Jordi Kerr — A more Australian story that I would have expected from a short summary of it, with some strong New Zealish elements thrown in via the second character. Shifters, lesbians, high school. A nice read.

‘Telephone’ by Yvette Walker — A timey-wimey story in which the main character receives a phone call from her teenage self. As she talks to this version of herself that had been trying to call and LGBT support hotline, she reflects on her life and how she got to where she is now (happily living with her wife). A sweet story, overall.

‘DNA’ by Melanie Rodriga — A story about a queer teenage girl and her interactions with her family and one of her teachers. I found it to be a slightly unusual story, full of direct questions and teen anger but not as many answers as I might have expected.

‘Almitra Amongst Ghosts’ by Rafeif Ismail — A kind of depressing story about not fitting in due to race, religion and queerness, all at once. Written in a lovely style.

‘The Other Son’ by Omar Sakr — An autobiographical story about a father’s death and meeting a half brother for the first time, told by the middle eastern author.

‘School of Hard Knocks’ by Amra Pajalic — A Bosnian girl moves to Australia and starts high school in a rough suburb, where she is bullied. Another autobiographical story.

‘Autumn Leaves’ by Wendy Chen — A nice, if bittersweet, story about a Chinese family in Melbourne around the time of Federation. I quite liked it.

‘How to Be Different’ by Michelle Aung Thin — An autobiographical essay about being different, especially as a young child in primary school.

‘The Last Stop’ by Alice Pung — This story wasn’t at all what I expected. Told from the point of view of a bogan or “feral” teenage boy who enters a competition for a laugh and wins a Rotary Club trip to China. Discovering that the ordinary high school kids in China are just like him significantly changes his world view and opens his eyes to racism. A really good read, in the end, though you had to get past some racism near the start to appreciate the change in the character’s perspective.

‘Border Crossings’ by Rebecca Lim — Another autobiographical essay, this morning me focusing on our interactions and reactions to the world, especially with respect to language.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2018, Fremantle Press
Series: No
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Apple Books

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