’Bro, listen to me,’ Diz pleads, sliding to the edge of his seat and holding out his hands. ‘Fight club’s for posers. Lebs fight for good reason, not to show off. You don’t need to prove nothing’.’
’He’s challenged me, bro. What do you want me to do? Say no? Do you want him to tell everyone Lebs are chickens? He’s had one Leb fight him and he’s already bagging us out.’
Romeo Machlouf is in year ten at a boys school. He has good mates and tries to stay out of trouble, though it isn’t always easy. When a fight club starts up, he isn’t interested – he doesn’t want to fight. But he might not have a choice, because Lebs stick together, and don’t take any crap from Ozzies, or from Fobs either.
Bro is a coming of age story about growing up: first love, identity, violence and its consequences are all explored through the first person voice of Romeo. At the same time, the themes of belonging and race are explored both dramatically and poignantly. Romeo and his friends are all ‘Lebs’ – Australian born but of Lebanese descent (though Romeo’s mother was not Lebanese) – and the school and their broader social circle is very much divided into racial groups . The other groups include the Fobs (‘fresh off the boat’), Maoris, Samoans, Tongans and other islanders ; the Rez (an Arabic word for rice, Asian students; and the Ozzies, “white skinned boys”. Tensions between the groups often run high, and the fight club that springs up in the school is contested along race lines.
An emotional read, Bro tackles important issues in a really accessible way.
Bro, by Helen Chebatte
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016