Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren
Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760292096
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. The book opens with Kane's voice telling the events of yet another night when his father has come home, late for dinner, drunk and ready to pick a fight. The night spins into violence, his mother ends up in hospital, and the Department of Human Services is checking on them again. The next voice is Sam, Kane's little brother, traumatised by the violence at home and the bullying at school. And so the chapters go on, each told from the point of view of another person living on their street. There is kind-hearted Mrs Aslan who helps them out whilst yearning for reconciliation with her own daughter and granddaughter, the lonely African refugee family struggling in a house with no possessions, and racist Mr Bailey the Vietnam veteran who distrusts them all.
Kane is a bundle of anger building to explode against his father. He has lost track at school and is caught stealing. But he gradually makes new friends, at the alternative Teaching Space he has to attend, and with the migrant teenagers in his street. The challenge for Kane is whether he can find his way or become just another version of his father working things out with his fists.
All of the people in this story are living in tough circumstances, but instead of their differences dividing them, gradually the values of love, friendship, generosity and compassion come to unite them, and the message of the book is one of hope and optimism.
As Demet Divaroren says on her website her stories are about 'love, friendship, courage, loneliness, identity and belonging'. She gives voice to 'the human experience, raw, honest and real'. Living on Hope Street is powerful in its voicing of many people's lives and experiences and offers the opportunity to identify with others and discover common humanity.