Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: The Family Law by Benjamin Law

The Family Law - Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law- the third of five children, born to Chinese immigrants who settled in Australia- tells some of the stories of his childhood in this humorous, often cheeky biography. As one of the first Asian families to live in Caloundra, Queensland, in 1975, Law’s parents soon set up a popular Chinese restaurant, making the Law family an exotic household name for the white families living in the area. With the restaurant so popular, Law’s dad embarked on several business enterprises, which meant that while the family wasn’t poor, they also didn’t get to see their father that much. You could probably say that Law’s father is the absolute definition of a workaholic.
Regardless, Law recounts some memorable stories about life as a Chinese-looking, Aussie-speaking boy in Queensland.
Along with his three sisters and one brother, Law’s family life has been anything but ordinary- from hearing graphic accounts of birth and babies from his mother, to having the house raided when he was only four-years-old, by federal police looking for his illegal immigrant cousins.
In one chapter, Law tells of trying to learn Cantonese at a language school so he can better communicate with his extended family. While he understood some of the language, he found that he couldn’t actually communicate back, and hoped that lessons would help him improve, at least a little bit. He wasn’t terribly successful.
In another chapter, he recounts family holidays to the amusement parks in Queensland. His mother would act as a stereotypical Asian tourist, documenting everything on film, and he and his siblings would speak in loud, bogan voices so that other tourists wouldn’t think that they were tourists.
Law also tells of cockroach invasions, dangerous school camping trips, his Home and Away acting dreams, seeing his family naked, his mother’s aversion to technology, and gift-giving issues, among other unusual things…

What I gained from reading this book:
Family is an important theme in this biography, as anyone can tell simply from looking at the title! It’s obvious to anybody reading this book that Law shows deep respect and love for his family, even when they behave in seemingly dangerous (his brother, occasionally) or outrageous ways that would be considered out of the norm for most people. Even so, there is an underlying tone throughout the entire book that seems to say: ‘They’re my family- I have no choice, I have to put up with their wacky ways. But, boy, do I love them!’
This highlights the fact that although there can sometimes be friction between some family members, occasional bouts of stupidity and hilarity, and limited communication due to technology issues, there is nothing more important than the comfort of knowing that you have a loving family behind you.

This book is quite funny, written with trademark Law wit (not unfamiliar to those who have read his contributions to Australian magazines). This self-confessed ‘double-minority’ writer (he is gay, as well as Chinese-Australian), paints a hilarious portrait of his life, and really makes you wish that you could meet his family, simply to be a part of it all.

There is a little bit of swearing and indecent language in this book, which some people might not be too happy about. But if Law had left it out, the stories wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. If you can handle a little bit of cursing, this book is well-worth reading!

Rating: 7 out of 10

Genre: Biography

Recommended for: People who enjoy reading Benjamin Law’s articles and anecdotes in Australian magazines like frankie, and want to learn more about him and his childhood.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:

The Family Law

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