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Chapter 1: In the Deep End

First Term

It’s January 30th, the first day of the 2017 school year. And my first day back after a break of 18 years. I am surprisingly nervous. High school never loses its terrors. The shock of the new, the shock of being new. I fret over what to wear. My wife can’t help but laugh. “I, […]

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Chapter 2: The Kettle Boils

A week later, I get my first glimpse.  There’s tension in the air. Fatima is constantly in motion, impatient to do more, be more, know more. But she’s even more agitated than usual as she races around. There is A Look on her face. When at last I catch her in a spare moment, she […]

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Chapter 3: The Pencilcase Riff

It’s an endless afternoon, and Zahra and Kadeer are talking race in the common room. I listen. Were there ever issues with race here, I ask. Zahra nods, eyes flat. Race mattered when she first arrived, as young strangers from a dozen different backgrounds tried to make sense of where they were, who they were. […]

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Chapter 4: Everything is Simple

The school’s international students – meaning Chinese – sit under another tree nearby. Many boast on-trend Korean-inspired streetwear, black long sleeved tops with stark white logos, flowing pants, the look that works well in Swanston Street’s rooftop bars and karaoke joints where Asian-Australian scions play. It seems odd in treelined suburbia. Other kids wear tracksuits […]

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Chapter 5: Flight of the Whites

A week later, it’s the school open day. Smiles everywhere, not a scrap of rubbish, and student leaders and teachers take prospective parents on tour. I trail behind the assistant principal, who’s mistaken me for a single dad. She aims for disarming and self-deprecating and funny. This isn’t a private school sales pitch – no […]

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Chapter 6: Tradition and Modernity

The Anglo kids are hanging out in the common room for a change, casting the occasional look over at the Horn group, which is even noisier than usual. Did something happen, I ask. “Them?” Bree laughs. “They’re always that loud.” A kohl-eyed girl, Chelsea, mimics the Horn crew: “HELLO HOW ARE YOU?” It’s no secret, […]

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