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Childhood: A Memoir


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About the Author

Shannon Burns is a writer, critic and academic from Adelaide. His work has appeared in the Monthly, Meanjin, Australian Book Review and the Sydney Review of Books.


'Childhood is about more than reliving trauma—it shows us how literature can offer a pathway to survival, if not redemption. Shannon Burns demonstrates how to soldier on when all hope and dignity are lost.’
*Tyson Yunkaporta*

‘Childhood is raw and authentic. It tells a truth that can only come from being lived.’
*Justin Kurzel*

‘Childhood is honest, confronting and lovely. We don’t hear enough from the hearts of poor children, and rarely like this. Shannon’s demonstration of the power of words is inspiring. And it reminds us all that we should never underestimate a boy with a fire inside.’
*Paul Kennedy*

‘Childhood reads like Gorky and Tolstoy—not nudging but shoving the reader headfirst towards hard-won epiphanies with a brutal yet transcendent urgency.’
*Alice Pung*

‘Moving and inspiring…What makes this book truly exceptional is the power and perceptiveness of the writing. It’s a marvellous work.’
*Mark Rubbo, Readings*

‘[E]xquisitely written…I haven’t read a memoir with such a savage, tender, idiosyncratic narratorial voice – one that at once embodies and eviscerates toxic masculinity – since [Craig Sherborne’s] Hoi Polloi and Muck…Fathoms-deep hurt and anger seethe beneath the surface of meticulously controlled, forensically observed prose.’

‘That the boy depicted in Shannon Burns’s nightmarish memoir survived to write it at the age of forty reflects no credit on society or on those around him. His persistence seems remarkable, given the world he entered…Never is the [book’s] tone self-pitying or sentimental…The narrative is admirably cool…It would be impertinent to analyse or patronise the boy so compellingly memorialised in this uncompromising book. Any vindication or overcoming was all his own work.’
*Australian Book Review*

‘Childhood recounts domestic horrors in a matter-of-fact voice devoid of self-pity, yet it is not without feeling. It offers a compelling view of Burns’ turbulent formative years.’

‘Haunting…Burns’ powerful voice pierces swiftly beyond a mere recollection of domestic hardships into a confronting truth…The work shines because of its tone, which always avoids the sentiment of commiseration…A testament to being and becoming, in all its desires and cruelties.’

‘Eloquent and visceral.’

‘This book is really something…Propulsive, beautiful, wise, frightening. I loved it.’
*Andrew Pippos*

‘I won’t give the ending away but I will say this: he can write.’

‘I was humbled by the understated dignity of this painful story and inspired by the surprising direction it takes. Shannon Burns…shares a journey of liberation worthy of the most heartfelt admiration…Burns is a clean and honest storyteller…He has taught himself a bright, crisp and fearless way of communicating…Readers of Childhood watch something take place that seems both extraordinary and wonderful…Burns knows that life is fragile. Yet he has built this book with indestructible resolve.’

‘Closer to home, Shannon Burns’s unflinching memoir of an abusive upbringing – Childhood – elevates an often lazy and indulgent genre.’
*Australian Book Review*

‘Shannon Burns’s memoir Childhood is a surgical account of youthful trauma and literary redemption that will, I suspect, go on to be regarded as a classic. Burns writes class like no one else.’
*Australian Book Review*

‘My year’s stand-out is Shannon Burns’ shattering Childhood, a work of unsparing self-depiction, coolly detached and brilliantly analytical: a nightmare recounted by a calm and sophisticated intelligence.’
*Helen Garner*

‘[Burns] brings a powerful, textural quality to his relationships and experiences…A terrific book.’
*Robbie Arnott*

‘The narrative is sculpted so skilfully that it is never less than propulsive…[Burns] writes about his past with remarkable, clear-eyed objectivity, and yet he always honours his child-self’s innocent, subjectivity, and purity of feeling.’
*Mascara Review*

‘Beautifully crafted, utterly compelling.’

‘Possibly the best Australian book of last year…I can’t recommend it enough. I loved it.’
*Read This Podcast*

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