From "Looking for Alibrandi" to "Does my Head Look Big in This?": The role of Australian teenage novels in reconceptualising racialised-gendered identities

Lana Zannettino

Abstract

This paper undertakes a comparative analysis of three Australian teenage novels – Melina Marchetta’s ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ (1992), Randa Abdel-Fattah’s ‘Does my Head Look Big in This?’ (2005), and Morris Gleitzman’s ‘Girl Underground’ (2004). Drawing from feminist post-structural and post-colonial theories, the paper examines how each author has constructed the racialised-gendered identities of their female protagonists, including the ways in which they struggle to develop an identity in-between minority and dominant cultures. Also considered is how each author inter-weaves race, gender and class to produce subjects that are positioned differently across minority and dominant cultures.
The similarities in how the authors have inscribed race and ethnicity on the subjectivities of their female characters, despite the novels being written at different points in time and focusing on different racial and ethnic identities, suggest that what it means to be a raced subject in Australia has more to do with the significance of all-at-once ‘belonging’ and ‘not belonging’ to the dominant culture, of ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’ and of ‘sameness’ and ‘otherness’, than it has with the unique characteristics of biological race and ethnic identification. The paper argues that this kind of fiction carries with it an implicit pedagogy about race relations in Australia, which has the potential to subvert oppressive binary dualisms of race and gender by demonstrating possibilities for the development of hybrid cultural identities and ‘collaborations of humanity’.

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