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The Lebs

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  650 ratings  ·  93 reviews
A confronting new novel from award winning Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

'Bani Adam thinks he's better than us!' they say over and over until finally I shout back, 'Shut up, I have something to say!'

They all go quiet and wait for me to explain myself, redeem myself, pull my shirt out, rejoin the pack. I hold their anticipation for three s
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 2018 by Hachette Australia (first published February 27th 2018)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  650 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Maybe Leb isn’t something you’re born with; maybe it’s something you earn while you’re in the gutter.’

The Lebs is a difficult book to review – it is tempting to fall back on words like ‘necessary’ and ‘important’ but that makes it sound like a chore to read, when it’s not. This is propulsive, energetic storytelling.

So much of it is specific to a certain time and place; a marginalised (and demonised) demographic; a particular moment of racial tension boiling over in Western Sydney in the ea
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
You know things are less than ideal at a school when the new principal expels over half of the students when he is appointed. Not only this, he builds a nine foot fence topped with barbed wire and cameras around the perimeter, creating only one way in, and out. PunchBowl Boys High is situated in the western suburbs of Sydney. Is it a school or a prison? Are the walls meant to keep the students in or out? In school Bani, the protagonist, is a typical schoolboy on the surface, one of the better on ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-harder-2019
The Lebs is a confronting, demanding, yet compulsively readable novel. It's a very real story of a marginalised community, which is focused on a tense, conflict riddled moment in Sydney in the early 2000s. Ahmad is both honest and authentic in the way he constructs this narrative, the culture of toxic masculinity that is presented is raw and unrelenting. But at its heart, The Lebs is a story about identity. In it, Ahmad considers in particular, how we are shaped by our cultural identity, what it ...more
Ifdal E
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This made me squirm in my chair, and laugh out loud. As a Leb from Punchbowl of the same generation, I was irritated by MMA's exposure of (and the harshness with which he dealt with) Leb vulnerabilities, traumas, and weaknesses (not to mention his erasure of leb women), yet exhilarated by the style with which he brings them all to life and the context in which he places them. He brilliantly recreates Punchbowl's tongue by fusing references to the Prophet Muhammed, Malcolm X, Khalil Gibran, 2pac, ...more
In this way my spirit is broken and reconstructed, elevated to a point so high that my efforts turn to weakness. Reading means I care too much. Pulling out an exercise book means I care too much. To stop walking means I care too much. There are no bullies at Punchbowl boys. The school captain, Jamal, screams out in assembly like it is Thug life " What kind of sad f*** is bothered to pick on some other sad f*** ? We are beyond this. We are the children of the desert.

Shortlisted for the 2019 Mi
James Whitmore
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this an immersive and thrilling reading experience. We meet Bani Adam at Punchbowl Boys High School in Western Sydney sometime around 2001. Punchbowl Boys is more of a prison, or a pressure cooker, than a school, where the boys casually fling knives, fists and insults at each other down the corridors. Bani calls many of these boys 'Lebs', but they are not all Lebanese. He uses the term to refer to any number of Muslim and Arab identities. He wants to be a novelist, which makes the other ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I went into this book expecting not to enjoy it. Growing up in western Sydney around the kinds of boys the main character, Bani, calls ‘Lebs’ made me weary and reluctant to dive back into a world I was never really comfortable with.

But I am so glad I picked this book up. MMA’s writing is so unapologetically authentic and accurate that it felt almost triggering at times. The harsh and vivid language made me cringe in the same way it did when I was growing up. From the homophobic and racist slurs
Pip  Tlaskal
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very powerful, very incendiary. Having briefly taught at a school like this, I hope the author knows how to defend himself as much as his boxing character because there is enough in here to truly aggravate both Bankstown locals and women alike. MMA writes tough and wounding prose and you feel deeply for his character who is battling for his life, heart and mind in the hyper masculine world of Punchbowl Boys High. Happily, the recent principal Jihad Dib made some massive turnarounds to an institu ...more
Michael Livingston
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Vivid, bleak and occasionally funny. This is a look into a kind of toxic masculinity that isn't often examined closely. It's not fun to read, but I'm glad it exists. ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gr-giveaways
I received an ARC of this book for free in a goodreads giveaway.

A furious, shambling, sweaty and bloody mess of a book; a gateway into a world I'd previously only seen snatches of; a book that more or less abandons plot and instead just hurtles forward, aiming at target after target as it passes them. Fortunately, it hits pretty much all of them.
Mohammed Morsi
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's fast, punchy and it's that voice Australia must begin to listen to. It is also Australia. We tend to pick up what we want to read, although equally important it is to challenge yourself, read what will confront us and perhaps even change the way we see. If you consider yourself Australian, think again. This book will make you think about who you really are. Read it. Brilliant. ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture-race, fiction
shu brooooo!

mohammed cuz, its bilal from punchbowl, we did english tugevva before I dropped out

what a gronk bro i cant belieive you actually ended up writing a book. a fucking whole book bro and you called it the lebs you mad dog!

i dun get a lot of the same stuff from it that these 5 star blokes are telling you but shit bro you can spit metaphor dat would make biggie mad

but ded set that american pie scene was hectic! and all u haters eminem sed it first “black mans music so selfishly and use it
Claire Gilmour
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
The tone of this book felt very authentic but I just didn’t really enjoy it. The way they treated each other, their teachers, women. It may be an insight into another culture and minority group - and that insight might be very accurate - but I just didn’t like it very much.

I found the first part of the book hard to follow, the second part very repetitive and the third part just strange.

2 stars.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
Very little plot or characterisation...or anything besides high school anecdotes from Punchbowl Boys High. Amusing but clearly just a compliation of Ahmad's high school scribblings, padded out by an attempt to create a love story with no beginning or end. I feel if this wasn't about an ethic minority or about being Muslim it never would have been published. ...more
Rania T
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book that captures the lingua franca of disillusioned Lebanese youth in the Bankstown area of Sydney in the early 2000's. Hypermasculine and confronting, but a novel that should be read. ...more
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reviews
Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s novel The Lebs is a hard-hitting look at what it is like to grow up in Australia as the Muslim son of Lebanese immigrants.

Set in an all-boys school in Sydney in the late 1990s, it’s a potent mix of profanity, sex, lust, religion, racism, misogyny and hyper-masculinity.

It’s not an easy book to like. There are many confronting scenes and the language doesn’t pull its punches. Women are largely seen as sexual objects and there’s a dark undercurrent of racism running underne
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this hugely provocative and compelling read, Ahmad's titular Lebs are both victims and perpetrators. The prose is obscene, outrageous and frequently hilarious. It is just as rollicking and chaotic as Punchbowl Boys High School, which serves as the setting for much of the novel. And the final scene is a sucker punch to the stomach. An eye opening, haunting and hugely entertaining account of Lebanese Muslim identity from one of Western Sydney's most exciting authors. ...more
Anne Fenn
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Boom!!! As my grandson writes when he's making an impression, this novel will knock you off your feet! It's hugely energetic, packed full of incident, emotion, action and reaction. It opens in Sydney's Punchbowl High, a pack, a gang of young Lebanese males set about destroying the joint. Well, not really, just in their thoughts and dreams. We follow Bani, he's the outsider, smart and not afraid of it. I can't describe how dramatic the nature of Ahmad's writing is...chockfull of strong language, ...more
Shani Hartley
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I have lived in Belmore and worked in Bankstown. Although it was many years ago, it helped me gain a glimpse of the local culture. As a teacher I have seen the nicest students become thugs when they operate in a gang. Thus, the novel rang true.

I thought I would sympathise with the protagonist who wanted to separate himself from those who surrounded him. I did not. Bani’s arrogance was annoying, even though it was serving as self-protection, a cloak I also adorned as a child, but it was tiresome
Kowther Qashou
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ozlit
For people not from Western Sydney, this book might be a little unsavoury, or perhaps even confronting but as someone from Western Sydney, the characters in this book are very very real. It is real.

This book really threw me back to high school. Bani Adam really reminds me a lot of my high school self, how I always thought I was better because I wasn't like the other Arabs or wogs in my year. But really I was as naive as them and lacked a lot of self-awareness just like Bani does.

I do love Bani's
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This was heralded as a confronting read, but it's not my cup of tea - too much toxic masculinity, that I just didn't have the enthusiasm to pick through. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been on a plane, with nothing else to read. In particular, I found the last third of the book to be quite disconnected from the rest of the text. I wish I'd enjoyed it more, and am glad it exists, nonetheless. ...more
Amy Hunter
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
I don’t think this is a book that is meant to be “enjoyed” rather something to make you think and I respect it for that. Having said that I just did not like the style of writing - a mess of stories together with no plot line. The final part of the book was very odd as well.
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Australians
Recommended to Zohal by: Susan
This really hit me hard.

I found the first half hard to get through but we hit a point in the plot halfway through where I became much more invested in the story.

This is definitely a character-driven book and the author actually completed this book as part of his PhD. You can see more information about his process of writing this book and more about what this book is about and the themes and ideas it challenges:

The reason why I appreciate this book is be
R.W.V nee: Penny Reads
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, fiction, race
There are books that gently seduce you in, weaving their way into your consciousness without you really realising the impact. The Lebs is not one of those books. Ahmad's novel straps the reader in for a wild ride, the fast pacing and tone shifts working to convey the intensity of teen masculinity in a specific time, place and context. I found it an unforgettable read, the more so because it expects the reader to do the work of sorting out what all this means.
Ahmad's setting is a flashpoint in A
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 12.05.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: A
#NSW Lit Award 2019

Winner of New South Wales Award
Australia's most prestigious literary prize for
Multicultural Writing 2019

Gritty, raw
perhaps not everyone's cup of tea
...but is has a message.
" ...please don’t buy any more books written by
White people about Indigenous people,
colored people, and boat people.
Buy our books and let us speak for ourselves."

M.M. Ahmad, second generation Arab-Australian Muslim
whose family was illiterate.
He has work

The Lebs are on the loose, loping around Punchbowl high in some black comedic moments and our narrator is doing his best to navigate it all. Delivering a powerful punch to the guts at the end.
Urban Australia can be pretty animalistic, especially if your a Muslim boy in Bankstown around 9/11.
This is the sort of book that should be read in Australian highschools instead of Catcher-in-the-Rye.
Bloody fantastic work.
A great addition to the Miles Franklin Long-list. So raw! Loved it!
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
As a sister to three younger brothers who grew up in Sydney around the time this book was set, I loved the first two parts. Flashback city.
Then Bani finished school and part 3 lost me. Part three didn’t seem to connect with the first two parts of the story, the characters disappeared, there was little link to family and I couldn’t follow the thread. Then it just stopped. Perhaps it’s the fact that this is part of a trilogy, so maybe it is linking in to a broader story but after a cracking and e
Dec 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
I abandoned this book. It may be an authentic voice; it may be we need to hear from those on the margins who are disenfranchised. But I couldn’t handle their shit - how they treated each other and how they treated their teachers. It was repetitive and disheartening. So I abandoned it. I’d give it no stars but then it wouldn’t count in the GR average. Just because it may be an authentic voice, doesn’t mean it is worthy of being listened to.
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Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an Arab-Australian writer, editor and community arts worker. He is the founding director of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. In 2012, he received the Australia Council Kirk Robson Award in recognition of his outstanding achievements in community cultural development. Mohammed’s debut novel, The Tribe (Giramondo, 2014), won the 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Y ...more

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