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Reviewed by Chris Reed
Opening sentence
Chini!’ Ma yells, chasing after my sister, Sweta, and me with a hot spoon in her hand as we run off barefoot in the muddied grass to play at Guddi and Naffi’s place.
Nonfiction has always paled in comparison to its big brother, fiction, in terms of sales figures and popularity. But one has the feeling that with figures like Shaneel Lal in the mix there could be a surge in popularity. Shaneel will be known to many people as the rainbow community activist often referred to during times of exploitation or prejudice by media outlets in Aotearoa New Zealand.

As you would expect from an activist for the rainbow community, the narrative thread throughout the story is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. The obstacles put in their way, and the level of vulgar attacks on their mana and their ability to just ‘be’ is tragic and brutal. The title, ringing with the words from the previous Prime Minister’s Christchurch speech immediately places themselves in the ‘outer’ of society, but also a voice for the voiceless.

However, despite the growth and the strength that is apparent from the early stages of Lal’s life, there is a gnawing element to the text that just can’t be displaced, the battle for conversion therapy to be removed from our system. A noble effort made by the young New Zealander of the Year that really acts as a climactic point of the text. It’s an inspiring moment in the narrative and worth reading for this moment, if for nothing else.

Marginalised communities need to have a spokesperson. They need to have a sounding board and a place to share their stories. Lal has always provided the space for others to join, and given the strength that so many of our disenfranchised communities need in these modern times. Its an important and inspiring read for our young people.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 978-1991006288
Format: Paperback
Publication: July 2023
Ages: 13+