Review: The Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

The Lebs

Series : N/A

Publisher : Hachette Australia

Source : Publisher

Release Date :  March 2018


A confronting new novel from award winning Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

‘Bani Adam thinks he’s better than us!’ they say over and over until finally I shout back, ‘Shut up, I have something to say!’

They all go quiet and wait for me to explain myself, redeem myself, pull my shirt out, rejoin the pack. I hold their anticipation for three seconds, and then, while they’re all ablaze, I say out loud, ‘I do think I’m better.’

As far as Bani Adam is concerned Punchbowl Boys is the arse end of the earth. Though he’s a Leb and they control the school, Bani feels at odds with the other students, who just don’t seem to care. He is a romantic in a sea of hypermasculinity.

Bani must come to terms with his place in this hostile, hopeless world, while dreaming of so much more.

Tash M

Michael Ahmed ‘s The Lebs is  hard to describe where it fits in the realm of literary novels. It’s obvious the author has taken inspiration from his own personal experiences in this thought provoking novel. It’s a novel driven by the events of the  late 90’s and early 00’s It’s  clear and  offers an interesting fictional perspective on events that not only shaped the world but Australia. It’s close to home and  Bani Adam is in thick of these events.

Self described as one of the The Leb’s. Bani Adams takes readers through three key periods of the late 90’s and early 00’s as he tries to navigate life not just as Middle Eastern Australian. Bani however still holds on to his Leb identity fiercely govern by the way his life is run.

Bani is a dreamer, having crushes and wanting to become a novelist when we first met this young man. He is one of those punchbowl boys.  Peer pressured to become a thug and rule over the Fobs. They rule the roost and the boys run wild, It’s a breeding ground for trouble. Bani call his friends and classmates Leb, the self description for anyone who identifies as Arab or Muslim it’s a badge of honour .

He wants to fit in but it’s obvious that he is better, driven by the dreams of being a writer. However his skin colour is deterrent given the climate and he is lumped with the rest of them.

In the first part of the story, Bani is seen is a typical young man, influenced by his culture and friends. He wants to become better but crushes and the youth mentality rule the roost. It’s in the second part where Bani comes into his own and becomes his own man.

The events of September 11 are played out and Bani is now a senior student exploring  new boundaries. Whilst those events are still afresh, Bani more concerned about writing and his girlfriend. His language hasn’t changed. It’s a reflection of his surroundings yet his writing shows a maturity that he hasn’t  come to terms with yet.

His reflections as senior boy at the school, show Punchbowl is unaffected by the measures despite the complexity and the facts.  Bani’s honest reflections show that these boys seem invincible unaware of the issues affecting them and their families .  Bani always reflects on this as he comes to term with his past. What seems  innocent mistakes are careful stepping stones in life to  some kind of future .

In the third and final part of this novel. Bani is now a young adult , graduated and aimless.  Whilst the last two parts were dealing with various parts of his coming of age story  and being a Leb in this climate during the time period. This one looks more closely as Bani as he deals with the last part of his identity. The part he has shied away from. The subtle undertone that has run through this novel not wanting to poke it’s head in fear of retributions.  Coming to terms with the maturity , his voice shown in the earlier parts, he is ready to deal with the unsaid parts of his identity. Involved with art project this part, finally allows readers to see Bani succeed and whilst it’s end is heartbreaking.  It’s an conclusion that is well deserved given what has gone through all these pages.

It’s full of flaws and that adds to the charm of this book. The writing is honest and allows for an understanding on themes from an perspective that  isn’t heard from too often. The Leb’s is a confronting take on a period of history that shied away from. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s a coming of age novel expressing the journey of boyhood to man in a voice that is  need in this time and day. The Leb is a piece of fiction that needs to be read by everyone.




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