Book Review / Meet Me at the Intersection – edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina

“With this anthology, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rebecca Lim have created a new and vital space in Australian literature. Here, marginalised identities have been brought to the fore in all their complexity, power and beauty.”
Annie Zhang reviews Meet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina.

Circles flow from and around each other on the cover of Meet Me at the Intersection. In this painting by Palyku editor Ambelin Kwaymullina, these circles curling out from the centre represent the voices of various marginalised groups. Sharp white shapes represent the structures that intersect to oppress them—but these also create a space for them to meet, share in their experiences, and act.

Meet Me at the Intersection is an Own Voices anthology realised by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina, two editors tenaciously combating the silencing of minority voices in young adult literature. In this volume, identities imbricate, marginalised writers define their own stories, and diversity is fiercely showcased and celebrated.

The anthology is structured to begin as the land known as Australia did, with the stories of Indigenous people from myriad nations.

We begin with Night Feet by Yugambeh writer Ellen van Neerven, the lively story of a Queer Black girl applying for a soccer scholarship. Then in Dream, Aboriginal writer Graham Akhurst presents a set of visceral, tactile poems on blood and haunted space, where the displacement of words across each white page reflects the consequences of colonisation.

Next is Dear Mate, a written dialogue by Wongi writer Kyle Lynch that follows the author’s journey in trying to find a job. A pithy, powerful poem named Embers follows this; it is written by Palyku writer Ezekiel Kwaymullina and centers on his experience of dyslexia in the classroom.

This poem flows into the volume’s next set of stories, which focus on experiences of disability. Olivia Muscat’s Harry Potter and the Disappearing Pages is a rousing memoir on her development of blindness at the age of thirteen, and the ongoing fights she has fought ever since.

Next, blending fiction and memoir, Mimi Lee’s Fragments explores mental illness in a poignant dual narrative that blurs timelines, cities and selves. Then in Stars in Our Eyes, Jessica Walton presents the sweet and funny tale of Maisie, a bisexual amputee like the author, who is beginning a sweet romance with a non-binary teenager she meets at a convention.

Several incisive works from LGBTIQA+ writers follow, with Kelly Gardiner’s Trouble taking us to a St Kilda pier in 1957, where two queer women are having a charged encounter. Sheer Fortune by Jordi Kerr draws from their experiences as a queer non-binary writer with an autoimmune disease; magic and romance interweave in a speculative fiction exploration of trauma and the realms of the body.

Yvette Walker’s Telephone is next, a time-blurring story of heartbreak, hope and happiness, in which a lesbian woman encounters her younger self. In DNA, queer Eurasian writer Melanie Rodriga traverses place and language to fracture rigid assumptions of gender, sexuality and ethnic identity. Queer Muslim writer Rafeif Ismail presents Almitra Amongst Ghosts, where spirits haunt the pages and two women live and love. Then there is The Other Son by bisexual Muslim writer Omar Sakr, a tender memoir piece on encountering the Turkish half-brother he has never known.

The final works in the anthology portray migrant experiences. Amra Pajalic’s School of Hard Knocks is a narrative memoir tracing the author’s survival a in hostile high school environment as the child of Bosnian migrants. Chinese-Australian writer Wendy Chen proffers the historical fiction piece Autumn Leaves, a work of impeccable contextual detail that imagines a Chinese family’s experience living in Melbourne right after the Immigration Restriction Act’s introduction in 1902.

Michelle Aung Thin, a writer of complex Anglo-Burmese heritage, deliberates the impact of mobility and migration on constructing identity in a thoughtful personal essay, How to be Different. Alice Pung’s The Last Stop is a lively, humorous story about a boy who accidentally wins a trip to Shandong, reframing notions of class and race. And Rebecca Lim concludes the anthology with Border Crossings, a mediation on the turmoil with which marginalised people navigate identity in the west.

With this anthology, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rebecca Lim have created a new and vital space in Australian literature. Here, marginalised identities have been brought to the fore in all their complexity, power and beauty. “We are the voices too often unheard, the people too often unseen,” write the editors in the introduction. “But we are here; we are speaking. And through this book, we invite you into our worlds.”

“Meet us at the intersections,” they ask. Listen hard, learn well—and continue to fight for these spaces to be made, and these stories to be heard.

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