For Indigenous author Gary Lonesborough, his debut novel The Boy From The Mish is the book he wishes had been available when he was growing up.
The story revolves around Jackson, a teenage boy who finds himself coming to terms with his sexual identity when a mysterious young man, Tomas, comes to stay with his family over the course of a summer. Tomas’ arrival forces Jackson to not only confront the evolving nature of his relationships with his friends, family and community, but also his darkest secret, which he thought he’d locked away for good.
The themes of self-belief, first love and personal reckoning are sure to appeal to a broad audience while providing desperately needed visibility across the intersections of race and sexuality.
For actor Meyne Wyatt, who has immaculately brought Lonesborough’s words to life in the audiobook, his hope is that The Boy From The Mish, will drive change in conversations surrounding LGBTQ stories. At the micro level, the actor would love to see these changes specifically take place in Indigenous communities, but equally, he acknowledges it is a national hill to climb.
“What Gary has been able to get at here is the fact that race and identity have a lot to do with the struggle in Australian society and culture,” he told The Latch.
“We have a very insular and narrow view of the world in Australia. And I feel like this book is able to capture something that is beyond that. It’s a window into a world that allows you to be a participant and a spectator to a world that is bigger and that does exist here in Australia. And I think it’s something that is radical, that he is a young, Indigenous, Queer man, but it’s something that it shouldn’t be — it should be normalised.”
Wyatt, who captivated audiences in 2020 with his powerful monologue about Black identity and police brutality — derived from his play City of Gold — on ABC’s Q+A, also praised the novel for striking an elusive balance between universality and specificity.
Referring to Jackson’s journey as he grapples with his identity, and how that might exist within the constructs of his community, Wyatt said, “All of us have been there at one point in time, where we’ve thought ‘What’s going on here?’, ‘What am I feeling?’, ‘Is it right or wrong?’”
He continued, “These are such human traits that I think Gary has very cleverly honed in on here and specifically for a young Queer, man, he really hit the nail on the head. He offers a window into that person’s world and he does it absolutely beautifully.”
Given the events of 2020 and its global examination of inequality and the pursuit of social justice, it’s little wonder that Lonesborough, who is a proud Yuin man, has signed the rights to see The Boy From The Mish released in the US, Canada and Mexico.
The possibility of a film or television adaptation could also be on the cards given the universal themes of the story and Lonesborough’s background in scriptwriting — a potential project that Wyatt said he would be more than eager to participate in.
“I’d love that,” said Wyatt. “The ambitions are to see this story have another life beyond the book as well. It’s a great story, and it has an international audience as well as a national audience here in Australia, that’s the beauty of Gary’s writing.”
Wyatt, whose credits include Neighbours, The Sapphires, The Turning and Strangerland, is an endlessly talented artist across multiple mediums. His stunning self-portrait won the Archibald Prize’s 2020 Packing Room Prize, making him the first Indigenous artist to win any of the Archibald’s categories in the prize’s 99-year history.
As for what the proud Wongutha-Yamatji actor is working on next, Wyatt remains somewhat coy, but definitely excited.
“I’m writing a new play, and also writing on a television series. I’ve also got a couple of acting gigs coming up. I can’t be too specific about them yet until they’ve had their press releases, but it’s been a whirlwind because my first play opened so many opportunities for me to do other things now. Maybe even writing my own book. We’ll see what happens.”
The Boy From The Mish is available on Audible.