Monday, 21 July 2014

Christos Tsiolkas

If there is one author everyone must read in the current times I'd say it is Christos Tsiolkas. My brother and his lovely wife recommended him to me during a recent visit. My brother was not much of a reader growing up, so when he suggested I read it I was a bit skeptical, but Tsiolkas' The Slap and Barracuda are two of the most riveting books I have read recently.

His works are thought provoking, make you deeply uncomfortable and force you to acknowledge truths that you tend to live in denial of. This is especially true for an immigrant like me, trying to raise a child, who I believe will develop a sense of belonging if I stay put in one place. Until now I have believed that if we had all stayed in my country of birth and just plodded along we'd all be fine today, that we'd have a strong sense of belonging, but I don't know that for sure. I will never know if that could be true.

The truth of the matter is that regardless of where we are born and raised we have to go through the coming of age ritual. It isn't cultural or traditional and there are no timelines. It is an individual battle and Tsiolkas illustrates that so vividly for a person of mixed parentage in contemporary Australia. It is frightening to think that children battle through such emotions as they grow up. I had my own challenges growing up away from my country of birth, but I doubt I can compare my experiences to what Tsiolkas speaks of in his books. My heart aches a little for my nephew and nieces and my son.

These two books are a must read for everyone. It does not matter where you are raising children, it is not just about ethnic differences or white dominance. It is about class consciousness and what matters to an individual at each stage of his or her life. There is a lot to take in with these two books, but the one thing I want to hold on to is to try and look at life through my child's eyes so I can be empathetic to what he goes through as he finds his niche in this complicated mess we have created.