Book review: The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough

The Boy from the Mish is a queer First Nations bildungsroman fiction novel. This book is an important work as it represents diverse identities – both Aboriginal and queer. Young people who do not ‘fit’ the mainstream ideal need to see themselves in fiction as it helps to validate their lived experience. A lack of diverse representation not only influences how people see themselves but how they are seen (or not seen) by mainstream dominant cultures.

Go to your elders. You should ask them about your country and your totem. Because that is your identity. A blackfella with no identity is a lost blackfella. He don’t know where he belongs.

Individual and institutionalised racism, over-policing of Aboriginal youth, prejudice and lateral violence are confronted throughout this story told from the perspective of seventeen year old Aboriginal Jackson on a journey of self-discovery about who he is emotionally and sexually. On the cusp of adulthood and in his final year of high school, Jackson juggles a social life with his mates and his girlfriend with whom he has not had sex, but doing so hovers as an ever present expectation that he cannot meet.

I’m not too fucking drunk. I’m tipsy at best. And she isn’t ugly, I think she’s beautiful. Maybe my body is just broken, or maybe I’m destined to be an abstinent priest or something.

When he encounters fresh out of juvie Tomas, Jackson is unsettled by his attraction to the other young man and it triggers a change in how Jackson sees himself. The Boy from the Mish is a beautiful and heartwarming story that paints colourful insights into life in Aboriginal family homes, familial relationships and struggles, the emotionality of youth and the fears that make coming out difficult. It is also written in a way that shows white people as ‘the other’, which is refreshing.

If we don’t let ourselves be who we are, love who we are, where we come from, it’ll strangle ya until you can’t fight it no longer.