Sometimes a book knocks you off your feet and into a completely alien environment – no, I’m not talking sci-fi, but Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s The Lebs. I grew up in Sydney in the same timeframe as this book, but Ahmad’s Sydney is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
‘Bani Adam thinks he’s better than us!’ they say over and over until finally I shout back, ‘Shut up, I have something to say!’
They all go quiet and wait for me to explain myself, redeem myself, pull my shirt out, rejoin the pack. I hold their anticipation for three seconds, and then, while they’re all ablaze, I say out loud, ‘I do think I’m better.’
The writing – three separate and yet lined vignettes – is confronting and raw and insightful all at once; reading it had me feeling disturbed, challenged and interested all at once. While the final vignette has been criticised for not quite fitting, I think that was the point – the intended message was about accepting who you are and not trying to be someone you’re not. To me, that came across loud and clear.
I can’t say I enjoyed it because books like this are rarely “enjoyable” in the way I would use the word, but I did learn something and that insight through different eyes led to further discussion … which is good.
The Lebs is out now via Hatchette and available wherever you buy good books. Thanks to the author for sending me a copy.
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