The Hate Race

By Maxine Beneba Clarke Hachette

‘Against anything I had ever been told was possible, I was turning white. On the surface of my skin, a miracle was quietly brewing . . .’

Suburban Australia. Sweltering heat. Three bedroom blonde-brick. Family of five. Beat-up Ford Falcon. Vegemite on toast. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s life is just like all the other Aussie kids on her street.

Except for this one, glaring, inescapably obvious thing.

From one of Australia’s most exciting writers, and the author of the multi-award-winning Foreign Soil, comes The Hate Race: a powerful, funny, and at times devastating memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia.

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent and the author of the poetry collections Gil Scott Heron Is on Parole and Nothing Here Needs Fixing. Maxine’s short fiction, nonfiction and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, The Age, Meanjin, The Saturday Paper and The Big Issue. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil was shortlisted for the 2015 Stella Prize. A collection of Maxine’s poetry Carrying the World, her memoir The Hate Race and her first children’s picture book The Patchwork Bike were all published in 2016.

Judges' report

The Hate Race is an important account of growing up in suburban Australia during the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the routines of a suburban childhood will be immediately recognisable to readers, except that the colour of Maxine Beneba Clarke’s skin makes her the target for an astonishing level of discrimination. The combination of a familiar Australian childhood and a world of bullying, ostracism and casual racism is necessarily shocking, transforming this memoir into a significant indictment of cultural complacency. The Hate Race is a moving memoir of national significance, grounded in a tradition of Afro-Caribbean storytelling that recognises the importance of the personal account: “This is how I tell it, or else what’s a story for.”

Further reading


‘Clarke is an accomplished poet and writes with a poet’s rhythms. The book is woven with powerful refrains that act like waves, picking the reader up and casting them back again: “This is how it changes us. This is how we’re altered.” Taken alone, every chapter of The Hate Race burns, but the collective weight of the book is an excoriating indictment of a culture in which such experiences are unexceptional … There is a tendency to talk about a young author such as Clarke as a “writer to watch” with the expectation that she may, one day, achieve the extraordinary. With The Hate Race, she already has; don’t watch, watch out.’ Beejay Silcox, The Australian

‘The Hate Race is a profound, intelligent and deeply personal exploration of how racism damages and changes its victims … Clarke’s book is utterly compelling. And it might just break your heart.’ Nicole Abadee, The Australian Financial Review

‘With force and grace, by stealth and shock, The Hate Race makes its point, gets under the reader’s skin.’ FL, The Saturday Paper

You can’t read this book and not be affected by it; you can’t read this book and not be astounded by the force of its writing. It will be something you want to discuss with your friends, with your world.’ Mark Rubbo, Readings

‘Maxine Beneba Clarke’s memoir is likely to precipitate the kind of conversations about racism that Australia badly needs.’ Brenda Walker, The Monthly

‘Maxine Beneba Clarke offers an unflinching portrayal of the impact of racism, and transcends form in turning a lens on Australian society. ‘ Catherine Noske, Australian Book Review