Blak Brow: ‘Sovereign Debt’ by Latoya Rule

Mum received an invoice for $1000 the other day, seemingly a fee expected to be paid by the next of kin of someone who has died in custody. My brother Wayne spent six days on remand at Yatala prison prior to the three days he endured on life support in the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Ceasing to regain consciousness following the events of spit hood and positional asphyxia, he died. Two years on and the coronial inquest into his death has commenced. As I sit in the coroner’s court each day I grow more uncertain about the likelihood of charges being laid upon the state, who were responsible for Wayne’s care in his final days.

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Excerpt from 'Root Bed' by Cassandra Rockwood-Rice

Root Bed is an excerpt from Cassandra’s manuscript, <i>The Bed Roots</i>, which she calls a "Troema": her definition of a 'troema' is a poetic narrative, spanning many pages, that maps the language of a traumatic experience across an experience or across an entire lifetime. In so writing the troema, the writer observes and bears witness to the trauma in an effort to help de-stigmatize the nature of living in a traumatized body and/or mind. It asks the reader to look closely at the damages resulting from oppressive and abusive behaviors, in our interpersonal relationships and in society at large. It asks that we build compassion and take responsibility for our actions.

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Photo by Alexis Brown. Reproduced under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.

It's the end of the year and you know what that means: overwhelming listicles of books to fill your summer with! Of course, we'd first recommend you check out all the wonderful work we've published, but if you're looking for even more Brow Approved BooksTM, this list of favourites from our talented, beautiful and well-liked staff is for you!

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Everything Lale Westvind produces has a crazy, cosmic energy to it. Her drawings are like one of those illusion posters that appears to be moving when you look at it but much cooler. Her new book Grip Vol. 1 is a great way to get into her work if you’ve not seen it before. She uses the comic form to trigger a strange, immersive and very bodily experience for the reader. Lale dedicates this book to 'women in the trades and anyone working with their hands'—what could be more enticing than that?
—Bailey Sharp, The Lifted Brow Art Editor

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Von Spatz by Anna Haifisch has a premise that's weird, insular and borderline magic realist, but not so much that the rest of the book has to rely on its wackiness. Her deadpan delivery and timing are impeccable, and she's an expert with negative space.
—Ben Juers, The Lifted Brow Art Editor

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Ooft, the end of another year, time to think synoptically. If a good epitaph teaches us anything, it is that we want any talk of death to be succinct. Mercifully, Kim Hyesoon disagrees. In the 49 poems that represent the days the spirit wanders the afterlife before reincarnation, she imagines the daily habits of the dead. It is a purgatorial book, yes, even a haunted one, but isn’t that what haunting is about: the attempt to work through things we don’t know how to, or can’t? Autobiography of Death tries to give structure to these major and minor traumas, it tries to frame an impossible but necessary conversation. It’s a great read for a season that sometimes stresses we be a little too resolute.
—Lachy McKenzie, The Lifted Brow Fiction Editor

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My book of the year was the one I was most impatient for, Rachel Cusk's trilogy-closing Kudos. Beyond everything else that can be said about these books, their formal inventiveness etc., each of them has just been a hugely enjoyable reading experience for me. The kind of sentences I want to keep reading forever.
—Luke Horton, Editor of The Lifted Brow Review of Books

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It’s no word of a lie that my absolute favourite books I read this year are Brow Books books, and sure that might be because I as publisher and/or editor have such an intimate relationship with these books and so was no longer just a ‘reader’ of these books. It’s also the truth because they are competing with not a huge amount of other books — I read less ‘published’ books in 2018 than I have for several years now, what with a lot of my reading being manuscripts for Brow Books, both unpublished submissions and also submissions of books published by presses from different parts of the globe. (I’d like to list any of these latter books, but my favourites of these are titles which we are going to publish in Australia in 2019, or are still hoping to.) I also read a lot of emails this year — I don’t even want to think about the ratio of words I read on email compared to words of honed, good writing—but no one ever wants to create a list of ‘best emails of the year’ because that wouldn’t make any kind of sense. I also spent way too long reading the timelines of various social media platforms, of which I barely remember a thing except vague colours and vibes. Among all this noise, the book from 2018 that springs to mind most that I’d like to mention is Motherhood by Sheila Heti, which I read in bursts on buses and trains throughout a long day of criss-crossing London visiting various publishing houses and people, before finishing the last long bit of the book in a heady slog in a bar with a beer or two. Motherhood is so full of sharp observations and it is also full of many hypocrisies; it feels very honest the whole way through, very human. The protagonist spends years sometimes musing and sometimes agonising and sometimes somewhere in the middle. She is flawed and she has blind spots and she just wants simplicity but she doesn’t really. The book made me stop reading a lot, to think, which is rare for me because my book-thinking usually happens while I keep reading, and I also underlined bits and circled other bits and folded down the corners of many pages.
—Sam Cooney, Publisher


Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the stars align and you read a book at exactly the right place and time. This happened to me with Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, which I picked up while visiting Europe. Described by the author as a ‘constellation’ novel, Flights strays from the linear path of traditional travel memoirs. Instead, Tokarczuk gathers the expanse of human experience through 116 distinct vignettes — from the imagined biography of a Flemish surgeon identifying the Achilles tendon to a story about a woman traveling back to Poland to euthanise her high school sweetheart. Contemporary in its approach, yet timeless in its beauty, you don’t need to be on the road to enjoy this truly excellent book.
—Clara Sankey, The Lifted Brow Fiction Editor

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Surprising absolutely no-one, my favourite book this year was Andrea Lawlor's Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. If you're yearning for a speculative queer history that embraces fluidity, chaos and failure: this is it. It's hilarious and tender and avoidant, and reading it made me feel like a real person. Eileen Myles described Paul as making 'both what’s out there and in here less lonely, less fixed, and less fake.' I don’t think I could put it better than that.
—Jini Maxwell, The Lifted Brow Editor

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I read a lot of amazing books this year, but the one I've probably thought about the most is Naben Ruthnum's Curry. In three interlinked sections 'Eating', 'Reading', and 'Race', Ruthnum considers the South Asian diasporic experience with an honesty, tenderness and rigour that really floored me. Reading this book made me realise how much I'd needed it. Honorable mentions also go to Maria Tumarkin's Axiomatic, Anne Boyer's A Handbook of Disappointed Fate and Elif Batuman's The Idiot.
—Adalya Nash Hussein, Online Editor

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I'm never on time with new releases but Kudos , the culmination of Cusk's trilogy of masterclasses in subtle prose, was an exception. Cusk continues with the deft observation and delightful snark that made Outline and Transit such pleasures, with more offerings than ever in the realm of bitterness and resentment. I particularly like the novel's perpetually disappointing fathers and husbands, and the intricacy with which she renders the terrors of parental power struggles over children. A breeze, a joy, a flex.
—Justin Wolfers, The Lifted Brow Editor

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My favourite book this year is Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky. This is a long and detailed book that I wish could have been longer. It follows impoverished Etsy-artist Lilian as she moves from Toronto to Manhattan to work in her cousin’s booming wellness cult. Before long, Lilian finds herself caught up in a world of meditation apps, golden lattes, pyramid schemes and sleazy yoga instructors. Selecky’s critique of ‘benevolent marketing’ and competitive Insta-culture is sharp and funny, but never mean-spirited or didactic. I’m looking forward to whatever she puts out next.
—Oscar Jonsson, Website Manager

Best of TLB Online 2018: Review of Books

If anything can be said for 2018, it's that at least TLB Online got some excellent book reviews out of it.

The team recently got together to choose the reviews that most excited us this year. We put forward pieces that were thoughtful, experimental, challenging and disruptive — reviews that lived on in our heads long after we'd finished reading them.

Unfortunately, that was the bulk of our reviews this year. So, faced with a list that kept growing instead of shrinking, our book-review editor Luke had the unenviable task of narrowing these down to twelve.

Here they are, in chronological order. (If you're after holiday reading, this would be a pretty good place to start!)

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Blak Brow: ‘Longbum’ by Eugenia Flynn

The grey mud creeps up my calves as I pick my way through the mangroves. Barefoot, the thick wetness moves between my toes, suctioning, slowing my movements down, and my thighs sting a little from the walk in the mangroves, something my body isn’t used to. I pause for breath, look over to my sister and see she is concentrating on the ground, walking on a drier bit of the mangrove floor, harder and more solid. She bends down and with a soft cry, picks up a crab and chucks him into the white plastic tub she is holding.

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Blak Brow: ‘A Yorta Yorta Fire’ by Karen Jackson

It was a Wednesday afternoon when the call came. A distraught and grief-stricken message was left, by a mother; her daughter had just passed away. I was struck with shock and disbelief. I had to sit down. I composed myself to return the call, sat on the edge of a small garden bed in the midst of concrete buildings and joined up walkways. I took some deep breaths...I rang... the phone went straight to message bank where I left a quavering message in an attempt to hide my own shock and grief from a mother who has just lost her daughter.

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Blak Brow: ‘Portrait’ by Neika Lehman

To celebrate the release of Issue 40: Blak Brow, we are sharing some of our favourite pieces from the issue.


by Neika Lehman

When I was 24 I was cheating on my boyfriend
and my mother had cancer. Now I’m 28 I sleep with
women, read dirty poetry and laugh at jokes about
theorists I don’t understand.

My country is dry, but when you think of my country
it is wet. I am de-colonial frantic, a blip in your ocean.
These days I have more freckles than I do sins. I
carry my ancestor’s see-through jawbone on a string
around my neck. I am beneath a she-oak of social
media. I am always already falling for you. We have
already broken up.

This poem originally appeared in Blak Brow, Issue 40 of The Lifted Brow. Get your copy here.

Neika Lehman is a writer and artist living and working on Wurundjeri country. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction has appeared in un Mag, Next Wave, Island, Voiceworks and in the short story collection I Sleep in Haysheds and Corners. Raised at the mouth of the Derwent river on Muwinina country, Neika descends from the Trawlwoolway people of north east Tasmania.

‘The Lives of Others: A Review of Jenny Erpenbeck’s “Go Went Gone”’, by Ruth McHugh-Dillon

Does it matter where you read a book? I was reading Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone in a court waiting room, where my friend’s asylum case had been adjourned (again) until the interpreter showed up. The interpreter’s arrival didn’t bring clarity. Instead, I felt a tightening of the chest; bitterness: she was doing a great job translating words, but it felt like no one was telling the story that mattered. Or maybe no one had a language that allowed them to hear it.

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‘Grief, Its Many Faces and Infinite Gaze: A Review of Emma Marie Jones’ “Something to be Tiptoed Around”’, by Jennifer Nguyen

It’s been barely a year since I lost someone important to me. When it happened I thought it was a joke. When I realised it wasn’t I lay in bed for a week. Staying in bed wasn’t a choice. Any energy I had expended itself on thoughts. Thoughts that came, stayed and went of their own volition — I was jealous of how much willpower they had. Thoughts. Questions. Sobbing. At times, loud and guttural like an animal had climbed into my throat. Other times, silent, like the animal had died there, withered away into nothing.

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Brow Books to publish Charlie Fox's THIS YOUNG MONSTER

“Good God, where did this wise-beyond-his-years 25-year-old critic’s voice come from? His breath of proudly putrefied air is something to behold. Finally, a new Parker Tyler is on the scene. Yep. Mr. Fox is the real thing.”

—John Waters, New York Times


We at Brow Books are thrilled to announce that we recently bought Charlie Fox’s idiosyncratic essay collection This Young Monster from UK publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions. We will publish the book in March 2019 – you can see our cover for the book below. (Special shout-out to Aloy the one-year-old Siberian Husky for allowing us to take photos of her face/mouth/teeth for the cover.)


About the book

This Young Monster is a hallucinatory celebration of artists who raise hell, transform their bodies, anger their elders and show their audience dark, disturbing things. What does it mean to be a freak? Why might we be wise to think of the present as a time of monstrosity? And how does the concept of the monster irradiate our thinking about queerness, disability, children and adolescents? From Twin Peaks to Leigh Bowery, Harmony Korine to Alice in Wonderland, This Young Monster gets high on a whole range of riotous art as its voice and form shape-shift, all in the name of dealing with the strange wonders of what Nabokov once called ‘monsterhood’. Ready or not, here they come...


About the author

Charlie Fox is a writer who lives in London. His work has appeared in Artforum, The New York Times, frieze and many other publications. He was born in 1991.



“Charlie Fox writes about scary and fabulous monsters, but he really writes about culture, which is the monster’s best and only escape. He is a dazzling writer, unbelievably erudite, and this book is a pleasure to read. Fox’s essays spin out across galaxies of knowledge. Domesticating the difficult, he invites us as his readers to become monsters as well.”

—Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick


“Charlie Fox is a ferociously gifted critic, whose prose, like a punk Walter Pater’s, attains pure flame. Fox’s sentences, never “matchy-matchy”, clash with orthodoxy; I love how extravagantly he leaps between different cultural climes, and how intemperately — and with what impressive erudition! — he pledges allegiance to perversity. Take This Young Monster with you to a desert island; his bons mots will supply you with all the protein you need.”

—Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Humiliation


This Young Monster is a hybrid animal in its own right, suturing biographical essays with stranger things: a “dumb fan letter” to the Beast, a meandering confession from Alice, bombed out after her many years in Wonderland. ... There’s not enough of this sort of playfulness and frank enthusiasm in art criticism.”

—Olivia Laing, New Statesman

‘No Country’, by Rebecca Harkins-Cross

The Yabba, 1971. My genesis is a panorama of nothing on some faraway blasted plain where the closest thing to life is the way vision warps in the heat. I’d be lying if I were to tell you I remembered anything before this desolation. Who is at home nowhere? This isn’t a riddle, it’s a failure of imagination.

The opening shot of Wake in Fright is - for me anyway - where Australian film begins, if we allow image to be unshackled from chronology. National cinema arises in this conception of ‘woop woop', the back of beyond, not here but out there. Nobody’s land, crowded with the ghosts killed to conceive of nothingness. The red earth hungers for more blood.

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