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Foreign Soil: And Other Stories

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From a powerful new voice in international fiction, this prize-winning collection of stories crosses the world—from Africa, London, the West Indies, and Australia—and expresses the global experience. Maxine Beneba Clarke gives voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, and the mistreated in this stunning collection of provocative and gorgeously wrought stories that will challe From a powerful new voice in international fiction, this prize-winning collection of stories crosses the world—from Africa, London, the West Indies, and Australia—and expresses the global experience. Maxine Beneba Clarke gives voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, and the mistreated in this stunning collection of provocative and gorgeously wrought stories that will challenge you, move you, and change the way you view this complex world we inhabit. Within these pages, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre; a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike; an enraged black militant is on the war-path through the rebel squats of 1960s Brixton; a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance; a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny; and an Australian schoolgirl loses her way. In the bestselling tradition of novelists such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Marlon James, this urgent, poetic, and essential work is the perfect introduction to a fresh and talented voice in international fiction.


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From a powerful new voice in international fiction, this prize-winning collection of stories crosses the world—from Africa, London, the West Indies, and Australia—and expresses the global experience. Maxine Beneba Clarke gives voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, and the mistreated in this stunning collection of provocative and gorgeously wrought stories that will challe From a powerful new voice in international fiction, this prize-winning collection of stories crosses the world—from Africa, London, the West Indies, and Australia—and expresses the global experience. Maxine Beneba Clarke gives voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, and the mistreated in this stunning collection of provocative and gorgeously wrought stories that will challenge you, move you, and change the way you view this complex world we inhabit. Within these pages, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre; a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike; an enraged black militant is on the war-path through the rebel squats of 1960s Brixton; a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance; a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny; and an Australian schoolgirl loses her way. In the bestselling tradition of novelists such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Marlon James, this urgent, poetic, and essential work is the perfect introduction to a fresh and talented voice in international fiction.

30 review for Foreign Soil: And Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Foreign Soil is a really great short story collection that takes a look at otherness through eyes of various countries. In most cases these are not stories of immigration or immigrants, these are stories of people who are different from "the norm" in various ways and from the point of view of various countries. Clarke inhabits her characters in interesting ways. She takes various perspectives and really comes across as authentic. Though we probably should expect it, she an Australian poet turned Foreign Soil is a really great short story collection that takes a look at otherness through eyes of various countries. In most cases these are not stories of immigration or immigrants, these are stories of people who are different from "the norm" in various ways and from the point of view of various countries. Clarke inhabits her characters in interesting ways. She takes various perspectives and really comes across as authentic. Though we probably should expect it, she an Australian poet turned author and seems to be able to empathize with different points of view and presents an understanding if not an agreement with the characters that she writes about. (view spoiler)[ David - An excellent opening story about a refugee from Sudan who remembers her brother David as the village was being pillaged. David had cobbled together a bicycle that he rode proudly. When the village is overtaken, he goes back to get his bicycle. As a woman sees another girl riding a bicycle and she reminisces. The story bounces between two time periods but you don't quite realize it until the end. A really brilliant story. Harlem Jones - A young African in London is fueled by anger. Hope - A rural Haitian girl is sent to live in the city and help a businesswoman run her business. She becomes pregnant and her baby's daddy promises to come back for her. She doesn't hear from him for over a year. When he comes back in person, it turns out he has been contacting her and sending her money, but the business woman kept it from her because basically she was good at her job. There are lots of undercurrents to this story and how it plays out and the points of view. Because it takes place in Haiti there are conditions that make these decisions not so straight forward. To be honest, I did not hate the business owner by the end of the story. Nothing is cut and dry. Another good story. Foreign Soil - White woman falls in love w/ a Ugandan doctor in the UK. He decides to move back home and she decides to go with him. He completely changes into someone she doesn't recognize once they arrive. A pretty powerful story. This is one about feminism as well as immigration Shu Yi - Asian girl attends a private school in Australia where the only "other" is a black girl. She is looking for a friend and ally. The black girl wants no part of her. Powerful. Railton Road - underground organization similar to black power movement is existing again in the UK. The org really isn't doing anything of consequence. One of the members sees a black female who is doing well, kidnaps her and makes her wear a slave collar. Before they can do much she is rescued but doesn't really understand what they were trying to do. Sort of felt like the reason for their existence had passed. Gaps in the Hickory - a hard one to understand at first but essentially a trans woman living in New Orleans is tapped by her ex wife to help save their likely trans grandson. Written in a Southern patois. Fascinating and really good. Big Islan - a Jamaican man is being taught to read and suddenly his world seems very small. The Stilt Fishermen of Kathaluwa - Wow, the most powerful and impactful story of the book. Young Sri Lankan boy is kidnapped from his family and inducted into the Tamil rebel army. They make their way to Australia seeking asylum. Heartbreaking/eye opening is the trauma the boy endured and his treatment once they arrive in Australia. They want to send him back to Sri Lanka. Though fiction, the things we are doing to generations of refugees. One knows there is a lot of truth in these stories. Aviation - Aviation - A woman who had decided to heal from her husband's death during 9/11 is asked to take in a foster child who looks middle eastern. The Sukiyaki Book Club - Story within the story concept. A woman writing a story about a young girl trapped on a playground monkey bars is really a single mother grappling with life while writing a story. Seemed almost autobiographical. This was the only story that wasn't open ended. The girl lands on her feet. (hide spoiler)] This was my first experience with Clarke, but I doubt it will be my last. She has a way of writing that expresses empathy with all of her characters. A much harder task than it would seem. She evokes a lot of emotions including but not limited to anger and compassion. There is so much wisdom in her stories, they get stronger as I think back on them. She writes in patois which forced me to read some of the stories out loud to understand them completely (which again I think goes to her as a poet and orator). Here the patois was in Jamaican, Mississippi, Haiti and Uganda. Most of the stories are open ended. At first that was off putting, but as I read, I came to think of it as brilliant. How do you think the will stories end? How do you think they should end? I think Clarke is a great talent. More please… 4+ Stars Read on kindle

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Racial issues are embedded in Australian culture. Current generations have grown up hearing stories of refugees, studying the events behind National Sorry Day, and watching footage of crowded boats desperate for asylum. Maxine Beneba Clarke, an Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean heritage, has used Foreign Soil to confront different forms of cultural separation. From a Sudanese woman’s first attempt at riding a bicycle, to an ex Sri Lankan soldier held in detention, her short stories are characte Racial issues are embedded in Australian culture. Current generations have grown up hearing stories of refugees, studying the events behind National Sorry Day, and watching footage of crowded boats desperate for asylum. Maxine Beneba Clarke, an Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean heritage, has used Foreign Soil to confront different forms of cultural separation. From a Sudanese woman’s first attempt at riding a bicycle, to an ex Sri Lankan soldier held in detention, her short stories are character driven and explode from the page with dense emotional rhythm. In the opening piece, ‘David’, a bike is used to symbolise freedom, showcasing Clarke’s talent with the poetic. The titular piece shows a young couple who, by shifting from one country to another, cause us to question how well we ever know those we love. And the story, ‘Shu Yi’, shows a schoolyard where the pain of being an outsider can turn desperation into cruelty, and underlines juvenile racism at its source. Undoubtedly, the most harrowing is the story of Asanka, an asylum seeker held in detention at Villawood. Through his eyes, ‘The Stilt Fisherman of Kathaluwa’ exposes the realities of life as an underage soldier. His boat journey to Australia and days in detention are this collections ultimate wrench point, and I challenge anyone to read it and not feel something in their chest crack. The collection is evidence of Clarke’s ability with slam-poetry and the spoken word. At times, I personally found the dialect jarring, even laborious, especially as I waded through the Jamaican-set ‘Big Islan’. The attempt to reproduce accents, although effective, diverted my attention away from the stories and made it harder to connect. But this didn’t detract from the books intense power. Foreign Soil speaks of displacement and longing. It’s for anyone who has felt different, who has born witness to a punishment undeserving. It shines a light on the spaces, and fore-fronts the divide, between us and them. Highly recommended. Follow me on the blog! ----> https://ponderdeeper.wordpress.com/

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    It was only as I approached the end of this short story collection that I looked up Maxine Beneba Clarke's bio and discovered that she is a spoken-word performer. I think it shows, and now the style of some of her writing makes a lot more sense to me. Her ability to convey spoken language in the written form is very impressive! But if I have one criticism, it is that the narration doesn't really need to be written in an accent. I don't think it adds anything (at least not when the dialogue is do It was only as I approached the end of this short story collection that I looked up Maxine Beneba Clarke's bio and discovered that she is a spoken-word performer. I think it shows, and now the style of some of her writing makes a lot more sense to me. Her ability to convey spoken language in the written form is very impressive! But if I have one criticism, it is that the narration doesn't really need to be written in an accent. I don't think it adds anything (at least not when the dialogue is done so well and alredy conveys the sense of place) and for me, it slowed my reading down enormously trying to wade through the Caribbean accents in particular. Clarke is equally brilliant at delivering a quick sting in the tail as she is at revealing the tender moments of a hard life or a difficult situation. Out of the collection, my two favourite stories were the longest ones; Gaps in the Hickory and The Stilt Fishermen of Kathaluwa. Both could have been developed into the novella form or maybe even longer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    4.5 This was definitely one of the best short story collections I've ever read. The stories are all incredibly diverse and give voices to those who you don't normally see represented in traditional media, particularly in Australia (eg. a Sudanese family in Melbourne, an asylum seeker in Villawood detention centre and trans people). Some of these stories are absolutely heartbreaking while others are heartwarming but they never felt cliche. They deal with so many different themes and some are parti 4.5 This was definitely one of the best short story collections I've ever read. The stories are all incredibly diverse and give voices to those who you don't normally see represented in traditional media, particularly in Australia (eg. a Sudanese family in Melbourne, an asylum seeker in Villawood detention centre and trans people). Some of these stories are absolutely heartbreaking while others are heartwarming but they never felt cliche. They deal with so many different themes and some are particularly relevant to whats going on in the world right now. But with all short story collections, there were definitely some that I felt were stronger than others or I just enjoyed more than others (eg. Harlem Jones, Shu Yi, Gaps in the Hickory, The Stilt Fisherman of Kathaluwa) and there were one or two that were a lil' forgettable.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    The extraordinary sense of dislocation we experience in Maxine Beneba Clarke’s first short story collection is intentional. Every story describes a different type of “foreignness.” Clarke takes on the voice and persona of every nationality of yellow, brown, black, or white person, those with red hair, blond, or soft black curls. Each story describes a pain, an experience, that is commonplace enough among the natives she describes to be recognizable. Clark makes us uncomfortable. Slipping on the The extraordinary sense of dislocation we experience in Maxine Beneba Clarke’s first short story collection is intentional. Every story describes a different type of “foreignness.” Clarke takes on the voice and persona of every nationality of yellow, brown, black, or white person, those with red hair, blond, or soft black curls. Each story describes a pain, an experience, that is commonplace enough among the natives she describes to be recognizable. Clark makes us uncomfortable. Slipping on the cloak of “other” isn’t always convincing, but her work is always an interesting and effective challenge to readers. Clarke writes from Australia, but from an Australia that feels unfamiliar even in its English. Her stories put us on the back foot, and make us query. We are constantly scouring the words she has given us to divine her meaning. It feels sometimes as though she left us clues, but the cultural markers are not the ones we are familiar using. We have the experience of being the “other.” I grew to admire the discomfort Clarke evoked in me, at how many unfamiliar incidents she forced me to look at closely. If she did an insufficient job of navigating and communicating that episode, why do I feel that way and how would I do it? Oh yes, she’s a clever one. The most absorbing and impelling, while still not entirely comforting, was the title story, “Foreign Soil.” An Australian hairdresser falls for a client and accompanies him back to Uganda. Cultural habits learned from childhood start seeping into his behaviors before he is even out of the airport. By the time she discovers she is pregnant, she knows she is not going to marry this man. Many of Clarke’s stories could easily be turned into a classic horror stories. They have that feel. We grow afraid to peer around the next page, wondering what damage will be done to her characters in the meantime. Even in “Foreign Soil” we wonder if the wife won’t be walled up, literally and forever, inside the doctor’s quiet, lonely compound in Africa. The story “Shu Yi” likewise has a horror pedigree reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, or other horror greats. An Asian immigrant without good language skills must navigate a white middle school which hosts one black adolescent. The black student is asked to interface the two groups, but is unwilling to risk her position of safety, an invisibility she feels she has earned. Observing, or putting ourselves in place of the black student—any road will get you there—deliver unto us the most vivid discomfiture. Some of the stories are interlocking, or self-referencing. For instance, we may discover one of the stories being discussed later in the collection, as in “The Sukiyaki Book Club.” The emergence into metafiction is entirely consistent with the self-acknowledging feel of the whole work. Clearly no one author could have experienced, or even known people who experienced, all these different lives. The stories, therefore, are a suggestion, a question-mark, an initial attempt to understand what others’ lives are. Readers are meant to take the fútbôl and run with it, changing what needs to be changed, adding flourishes and corrections until we finish up together, panting and laughing and sure we did our best, win or lose. An example of an early story which put the wind up was “Harlem Jones,” about a young angry black man determined to make his mark in a London demonstration, even to the point of “cutting off his nose to spite his face.” This story did not seem to quite capture the mind of a young man: there was not enough fear and, at the same time, immortality in it. Dissatisfied, I moved on, only to discover this was a thread, a kind of authorial technique. Clarke wanders in over her head, and looks to us. I grew to like her relying on us to think, to add our own understanding and our own spices. I did, though, also see room for greater clarity in style. Writing as a profession presumes we have something to say, but also that we say it well, and clearly, so that it is not mistaken. There was room for greater clarity, even supposing Australian and American are two different languages. Clarke is a slam poetry artist, Australian, of Afro-Caribbean descent. Her Australia is unlike any I have encountered before. She has three books of poetry published or shortly due out, won awards for this story collection even before it was published, and has a memoir, The Hate Race, just published August 2016 in Australia. She has talent and plenty of room to run with it. Expect to hear more from her. 3.5 stars.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tamsien West (Babbling Books)

    Utterly brilliant. Foreign Soil is a collection of enormous depth and insight. Masterfully written, the stories took me around the world, into the lives of characters each wholly unique in their perspectives, experiences and struggles.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Will be one of my top reads for the year! And is one of the best short story collections I have read. more thoughts coming shortly

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Fantastic short story collection, emotionally wrenching stories set around the world and around feelings of displacement. Terrible review for a great book - just read it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneda Clarke is a collection of short stories that has set out to give a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, downtrodden and even the mistreated. A collection of contemporary fiction that resulted from winning the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2013. In fact in the final story ‘The Sukiyaki Book Club’ Clarke appears to have drawn from her own struggles to get published in what appears to be the only autobiographical story in this collection. I am n Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneda Clarke is a collection of short stories that has set out to give a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, downtrodden and even the mistreated. A collection of contemporary fiction that resulted from winning the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2013. In fact in the final story ‘The Sukiyaki Book Club’ Clarke appears to have drawn from her own struggles to get published in what appears to be the only autobiographical story in this collection. I am never really sure how to review a collection of short stories; if I focus on one or two stories I feel like I’m not giving a balanced review, and if I wrote a little on every story this review will be too long. I normally adopt a generalised view with short stories and just hit a few points; it isn’t effective but I feel like it is the only way I know how to do it. Foreign Soil however has something else to it that makes it tricky to review. One of the great things about Foreign Soil is that Maxine Beneda Clarke has managed to capture a very unique voice. She has found a style that works really well for her but I was more impressed just how diverse her voice could be. The stories follow characters living in Sydney, Melbourne, Mississippi, Jamaica, Sudan and so on, yet all the voices felt real and unique to what we think of with their nationalities. When the characters’ vernacular sounds like they have an accent and the way you expect; it almost has a phonetic quality about it. That is not to say there is anything stereotypical about the characters, I don’t know much about the cultures written but they all feel genuine. The dialogue is one of the best qualities about this collection; from their broken English, accents and small quirks, each character’s strengths come from the skill Clarke has in giving them a voice. It is hard to imagine that there was no place for Maxine Beneda Clarke in the publishing world.Foreign Soil has a place in the literary world, Clarke challenges the Anglo-Saxon dominance and gives a voice to the somewhat voiceless. This collection of short stories will leave you pondering life and justice as well as explore ideas of hope and despair. It is nice to read a book full of non-Caucasian ethnic groups exploring real life issues. Foreign Soil is a wonderful collection of short stories; Maxine Beneda Clarke has stormed into the literary world swinging and I’m excited to see what she does next. I believe that her prize for winning the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award involved a three-book deal. In the works is a memoir, hopefully similar to ‘The Sukiyaki Book Club’, which has the current working title of The Hate Race, then I believe there is also a novel coming called Asphyxiation. Foreign Soil is the type of collection that makes me excited for the future of the Australian publishing industry; I recommend you experience it if you get a chance. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maddee

    Brilliant, amazing, powerhouse writing. My favourites were David, Shu Yi and The Stilt Fishermen of Kathaluwa (which I think is the strongest one in the collection). The writing is well paced and delicious. Maxine's voice has this fable-like way of telling stories and adding detail while never being overdone or cliche or feeling overwritten. Buy and read. Brilliant, amazing, powerhouse writing. My favourites were David, Shu Yi and The Stilt Fishermen of Kathaluwa (which I think is the strongest one in the collection). The writing is well paced and delicious. Maxine's voice has this fable-like way of telling stories and adding detail while never being overdone or cliche or feeling overwritten. Buy and read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bron

    Just finished this. Beautiful writing, heartbreaking (mostly) stories. Read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Unique, diverse and fascinating.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    4.5 Stars This is one of the first collection of short stories I have read that branded their sorrows, ferocity and hope into my memory. Each story is unique, every character distinctive. I cannot begin to describe how many emotions washed over me as I read this book. Read this book. It is a beautiful depiction of those who voice has been marginalised or forgotten.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    This book was interesting, and I can see why it has received critical attention in the way it tells somewhat 'untold' stories of the migrant/colonial experience. I didn't, however, find it particularly memorable, though this could be in part due to the short-story format which doesn't allow you to build a deep rapport with the characters. Plus it didn't seem like the characters in the stories were mutually exclusive, which was a bit confusing for me. I did most enjoy the final piece 'The Sukiyak This book was interesting, and I can see why it has received critical attention in the way it tells somewhat 'untold' stories of the migrant/colonial experience. I didn't, however, find it particularly memorable, though this could be in part due to the short-story format which doesn't allow you to build a deep rapport with the characters. Plus it didn't seem like the characters in the stories were mutually exclusive, which was a bit confusing for me. I did most enjoy the final piece 'The Sukiyaki Book Club' for it's hopefulness.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    She is basically a genius, this is the best book I have read in my entire life. The fact that we share the same name is purely coincidental.Every home should have this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Once Was Editor

    Some have commented the writing in this book is beautiful. It's not. There's an occasional nice turn of phrase, but it's otherwise heavy-handed, occasionally melodramatic, and often illogical. The book is summed up by a conversation I had with my friend. I was halfway through the book, and was surprised at how plodding it was. I mentioned it to my friend, who'd already read it. 'But you have to look past the writing,' she told me. Like important themes indemnify a book from bad writing. And that's Some have commented the writing in this book is beautiful. It's not. There's an occasional nice turn of phrase, but it's otherwise heavy-handed, occasionally melodramatic, and often illogical. The book is summed up by a conversation I had with my friend. I was halfway through the book, and was surprised at how plodding it was. I mentioned it to my friend, who'd already read it. 'But you have to look past the writing,' she told me. Like important themes indemnify a book from bad writing. And that's why people exalt it -- because it is about something important. That blinds everybody. However, it just doesn't do what it's attempting very well. All the stories follow the same formula: -- introduce the premise -- tons of exposition to arm the reader with everything they need to know to move the story forward -- the denouement. Characters behave unrealistically, while some come across as caricatures. The final short story (an attempt at meta-fiction) is one of the greatest self-serving pieces of fiction ever written -- an exercise in self-worship that attempts to convince the reader of the writer's struggle, despite her brilliance, and don't we just all feel sympathy for her plight? Not a good collection. Don't look past the writing. That'd be like saying about a painting, 'Look past the painting, because it's meant to be about something important.' It's the writing that builds the story. If that fails, the story fails also.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    An incredibly diverse collection of short stories set in all corners of the world, about the downtrodden and less fortunate in society. My description makes this sound like an incredibly bleak read, but often (not always) there is a feeling of hope on ending a story. Picking a favourite from this collection is impossible, but if you are a fan of short stories I highly recommend checking this one out.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This is a real corker of a collection of stories about the multicultural experience, not just in Australia but across the world. Short story collections can literally be a mixed bag - so naturally there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but even so, this is a very strong collection of tight writing. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Clarke herself - which I believe made it a much better, richer experience - mainly because she gets into the characters and their unique This is a real corker of a collection of stories about the multicultural experience, not just in Australia but across the world. Short story collections can literally be a mixed bag - so naturally there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but even so, this is a very strong collection of tight writing. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Clarke herself - which I believe made it a much better, richer experience - mainly because she gets into the characters and their unique voices in the text are a real strength of the writing, so to have her reading them as she intended is even better - especially the characters with African accents. I especially appreciated the last story, which is very self aware and could have easily become too gimmicky had she not crafted it so well. This is a seriously great collection of stories and one of my few five-star reads this year - and I think it's a book that should be more than just something you read to tick the "diversity" book off your reading challenges - because the stories are so varied but at their essence so utterly human.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dea

    What unique voices we have the pleasure to read in Clarke’s ‘Foreign Soil’! The settings and the characters are so vivid and bound to stick around in your brain long after you’ve finished the collection. These are sad, dark stories that will resonate with the reader and shake you to your core. Each story is interesting and different—no two stories here are alike! —covering a wide range of issues. It’s never boring, it’s never repetitive, and every page is unlike anything you’ve read before. (Alt What unique voices we have the pleasure to read in Clarke’s ‘Foreign Soil’! The settings and the characters are so vivid and bound to stick around in your brain long after you’ve finished the collection. These are sad, dark stories that will resonate with the reader and shake you to your core. Each story is interesting and different—no two stories here are alike! —covering a wide range of issues. It’s never boring, it’s never repetitive, and every page is unlike anything you’ve read before. (Although, this did remind me of Marlon James’s ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s ‘Here Comes the Sun’ so fans of those books should definitely check ‘Foreign Soil’ out!) My disappointment in the collection is a personal reading pet peeve: I never felt satisfied. Not every short story needs a clear resolution, but I do like to feel some sort of satisfaction from the ending. Sometimes these stories seemed shallow, rushed in their endings, and I needed just a bit more from them. To me, a short story should be like a cupcake, a treat you can consume in a few bites and feel full. I never felt full reading this collection, which is a shame, because this was a damn delicious cupcake. Still, this is a complaint that might not bother other readers, so I acknowledge that it’s a personal issue rather than a flaw in the writing. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-galley.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Helen King

    An expansive series of short stories all exploring elements of difference - mostly race, but also gender and sexuality. Foreign-ness. And the tendancy of many of us, irrespective of backgrounds, to despise / envy those we see as superior to us, and distain or take advantage of those we think are less than us. But not always - we can buck this tendancy. A beautifully composed series of stories, exposing some of the horrors - physical, emotional and spiritual - that many people suffer through, but An expansive series of short stories all exploring elements of difference - mostly race, but also gender and sexuality. Foreign-ness. And the tendancy of many of us, irrespective of backgrounds, to despise / envy those we see as superior to us, and distain or take advantage of those we think are less than us. But not always - we can buck this tendancy. A beautifully composed series of stories, exposing some of the horrors - physical, emotional and spiritual - that many people suffer through, but also showing hope, pointing to some solutions, the first of which us greater understanding and compassion, even for those we might initially tag as 'bad'.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Loved it. The stories in this collection are complex, showing the tensions characters face in situations ranging from primary school to the London Black Panthers. The writing is gorgeous. Lines like 'I liked it in the library, though I knew enough to suspect that in real life the mothers of Stoneybrook would never have let Jessi, Claudia or any other brown-skinned girl anywhere near their immaculately blond-bobbed children, even with the endorsement of the whole rest of Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitt Loved it. The stories in this collection are complex, showing the tensions characters face in situations ranging from primary school to the London Black Panthers. The writing is gorgeous. Lines like 'I liked it in the library, though I knew enough to suspect that in real life the mothers of Stoneybrook would never have let Jessi, Claudia or any other brown-skinned girl anywhere near their immaculately blond-bobbed children, even with the endorsement of the whole rest of Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitters Club' (Shu Yi). 'All-a dem years since slavery, an still wen da master say jump, de islan jus gather roun debatin how high dem gwan lif dem feet' (Big Islan).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cara G

    The most phenomenal collection of short fiction I've come across in a very long time. All the stories were amazing but my particular favourites were 'The Stilt Fishermen of Kathaluwa' and 'Harlem Jones'. The most phenomenal collection of short fiction I've come across in a very long time. All the stories were amazing but my particular favourites were 'The Stilt Fishermen of Kathaluwa' and 'Harlem Jones'.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gail Chilianis

    Ten stories..moving, confronting, raw. Maxine Beneba Clark's writing is extraordinary. Ten stories..moving, confronting, raw. Maxine Beneba Clark's writing is extraordinary.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Booktart

    I'm typically not a huge fan of short stories for the reason that I always want more -- to get to know the characters, etc. I felt that with these stories as well. However, they are interesting and eye-opening -- about countries, wars, and situations that we (in the "developed" world) often don't hear much about. The author is Australian and some of the stories provide insight into racism in Australia, which is also interesting. I would definitely like to read more from this author. I'm typically not a huge fan of short stories for the reason that I always want more -- to get to know the characters, etc. I felt that with these stories as well. However, they are interesting and eye-opening -- about countries, wars, and situations that we (in the "developed" world) often don't hear much about. The author is Australian and some of the stories provide insight into racism in Australia, which is also interesting. I would definitely like to read more from this author.

  25. 4 out of 5

    evelyn hugo’s #1 fan

    in case you weren't aware i love and adore maxine beneba clarke and would sacrifice my entire being for her in case you weren't aware i love and adore maxine beneba clarke and would sacrifice my entire being for her

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alice Minns

    I cannot believe that one person wrote all these stories. Spectacular in every sense of the word.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Maxine Beneba Clarke’s short stories in Foreign Soil collect the distinct voices of characters across the globe. Dealing with themes of immigration, identity and family, these stories offer a snapshot into people’s lives. Like snapshots that don’t show an entire location, sometimes these stories ended abruptly in the middle of the action. I connected with the stories in the second half more, especially those written in dialects, like Big Islan. I went into this collection wanting to know more abo Maxine Beneba Clarke’s short stories in Foreign Soil collect the distinct voices of characters across the globe. Dealing with themes of immigration, identity and family, these stories offer a snapshot into people’s lives. Like snapshots that don’t show an entire location, sometimes these stories ended abruptly in the middle of the action. I connected with the stories in the second half more, especially those written in dialects, like Big Islan. I went into this collection wanting to know more about race in Australia, which was my mistake. These stories travel from Sri Lanka to London to Oakland to Jamaica and beyond, so instead enjoy learning about the immigrant experience at different points in history all over the world. I’ll be reading Clarke’s autobiography, The Hate Race, soon.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ena

    Completely blew me away. Maxine Beneba Clarke is a born storyteller and a genius. 12/10 amazing!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    There are many things I love about this collection of short stories by Maxine Beneba Clarke, a writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. They are all well written, have realistic, complex characters and address issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in a honest, straightforward manner. Perhaps what I appreciated the most was the diversity and nuance of characters and perspectives. The characters included refugees isolated in a foreign land, hard workers living at the poverty level, successful African do There are many things I love about this collection of short stories by Maxine Beneba Clarke, a writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. They are all well written, have realistic, complex characters and address issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in a honest, straightforward manner. Perhaps what I appreciated the most was the diversity and nuance of characters and perspectives. The characters included refugees isolated in a foreign land, hard workers living at the poverty level, successful African doctors, successful white lawyers. Clarke writes from all their perspectives, often offering multiple perspectives within the same story. It is a testament to Clarke, that all the perspectives come off authentic. My favorites include the following. "David" is set in Australia and is told by an African refugee who left her home country due to war which took the lives of too many of her family. Her refuge in Australia is her bike, another refugee from Africa but from a different culture and religion is drawn to the bike. Flashbacks to the war years in Africa slowly reveal what happened to David and why the bike is so important and finally why the bike is a common bond between the two "Harlem Jones" is told by Harlem who is described by Clarke as a Black in England. The story reveals his despair living in a poor neighborhood with limited opportunities which manifests itself at a protest against an unjust police killing of a young Black man. The nuance here is that while the despair is real and the police killing unjust, Harlem's decisions are not beyond reproach. "Hope" is about "Millie" a young girl living in rural St Thomas. Her family makes huge sacrifices to send her away from their isolated village for a sewing apprenticeship and education so she can elude the cycle that her family has faced for generations. But the big city has threats of its own and Millie becomes pregnant threatening her apprenticeship and education. But as the title indicates, the story ends with the reappearance of the man who fathered her child and with hope "Foreign Soil" is an example of Clarke's diversity. She writes from the perspective of an uneducated white hairdresser who meets an African doctor who is working in Australia at the time. Ange, the hairdresser recounts their courtship, family disapproval, and marriage while she is in the Uganada airport on her way to their new home where the doctor is helping start a hospital. The story continues from Ange's perspective as her husband becomes more controlling and she becomes more isolated on "foreign soil" "Shu Yi" is told by a young black girl who retreats to the school library, partly to escape the ostracism of the white girls who dominate the Australian school. An Asian girl joins the class and is met with the same ostracism. The Asian girl's attempt to befriend her fellow outcast results in a sad twist, again told by the young black girl. "Railton Road" is set in a makeshift school taught by Black squatters in London. Solomon teaches the students about African history and inspires them to be proud of their heritage and culture. He years to be accepted by a local militant group and has very mixed feelings when asked to do something to prove his loyalty. "The Stilt Fisherman of Kathuluwa" was my favorite. It ties two different storylines; one is Asanka who was abducted at age 14 from his village to join a rebel army. While he was more prisoner than soldier, he is haunted by the atrocities he has committed and the knowledge he can't return home. He eventually is part of a long ocean voyage where they attempt to gain asylum in Australia but instead are placed in a detention center which is really a prison. The other story line is Loretta's. She is in an upwardly mobile successful lifestyle thanks mainly to her husband who she met in law school. She yearns for her past work as a lawyer for those kept in the immigration center but volunteers weekends at the center where she meets Asanka. The voices of Asanka is battling loneliness, mental illness and despair and Loretta who is battling resentment of her husband and their yuppie life are equally authentic in this fine story. Again, this is an excellent collection I highly recommend

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rose Wh

    Very memorable set of short stories. I think many of the characters and stories will stick with me; Foreign Soil, Gaps in the Hickory and The Stilt Fisherman of Kathaluwa were probably the standouts, except that feels unfair to say as the stories were all linked and kind of enhanced each other. The final one really tied everything together and left the collection on a hopeful note.

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