I did not expect Matt Okine to tell me about his penis when we spoke on Wednesday afternoon. The fact his candid statement made total sense? Even less expected.
Yet the frank and awkward facets of the human experience are inseparable from the profound, and that’s what Okine aims to express in his debut novel, Being Black ‘N Chicken, And Chips. A fictitious account of Okine’s adolescence, which was rocked by the death of his mother, the book weaves the absurdity of puberty into the experience of grief.
So we talked about dicks.
“The whole reason I wrote the book was to make something that was honest, that was a real-life capturing of what it is like to be 12 and facing one of the most impactful events of your life,” Okine said.
“All the stuff about losing a parent, and having to adapt to a new lifestyle under the guardianship of another parent you might not know that well, these are all big topics.
“But also, kids will probably connect just as much with the fact my character wanted a bigger dick, you know? I mean, I remember that being a huge part of my growing up.
“You’re trying to figure out what your body is, you don’t know where you fit in this world, and there’s terrible stuff going on but you’ve also got to figure out who you are, and what your place in this world is.”
Okine, 34, has good reason to pause and reflect. The comic, who adapted the book from his star-making 2012 stand-up show, recently became a father. He said the experience was profound, changing his own perception of the events which formed his young life.
“I wrote most of this book as I was to become a parent, and suddenly that shifts your way of thinking,” Okine said.
“The things the twelve-year-old boy is going through are things people go through until the day that they die.
“The loss of a loved one is something that I worry about. [The thought of] my dad dying, you know.
“I worry about what my life’s going to be like for my daughter if I die. I worry about how would I deal with the loss of my partner or my daughter. Loved ones dying is a never-ending fear.”
And those thoughts about what’s going on in your pants? They don’t go away, either. Plastic surgeons “wouldn’t have a job” if kids were the only people uncomfortable in their own skin, Okine said.
“There are people at work every single day who feel isolated, who feel alone, who don’t feel like they’re part of the clique.”
That connection to community and culture is a key concern for Okine, whose novel is framed by his relationship to his Ghanaian father.
“Being half-African, growing up in late 90s Queensland, I think that anyone with a parent who is not from here will completely connect with the way that Mike, the 12 year old character, sort of sees his cultural heritage,” Okine said.
“You realise so much as you get older about the sacrifices that parents have made, and how difficult that must have been for some of them.
“Any migrant parent who made a new start in a completely different country – I wanted to make sure that I captured that in a realistic way, as well.”
With such an expansive story, I understand why Okine would find time for dick talk. It’s an unvarnished truth in a book full of them.
“I really feel like the comedy and the drama in the book, they don’t exist separately and nor should they,” Okine said.
“They’re designed to work with each other, you know.”
Being Black ‘N Chicken, And Chips hits bookstore shelves on September 24, but you can head along to Public House, Petersham tomorrow to nab a signed copy from the man himself.
Image: Marc Grimwade / Getty ImagesView this post on Instagram
Come on down to Public House Petersham for free chicken nuggets and chips to celebrate the release of Matt Okine’s book, Being Black ‘N Chicken & Chips! You can register your interest through the link in our bio (it's free!) Based on his award-winning stand-up show, and the loss of his mother to advanced breast cancer when he was 12, Matt Okine's new coming-of-age novel, Being Black 'N Chicken, & Chips, is a funny, heartwarming, and sometimes surreal look at how young people deal with grief, the loss of loved ones, and becoming an adult – all whilst desperately trying to fit in. Buy a book on the day, get it signed by Matt and every sale will raise funds for National Breast Cancer Foundation's ongoing research into the prevention and cure of breast cancer. @mattokine #beingblackandchickenandchips ————– #bookstagram #books #bookgram #instabooks #tbrpile #booknerd #bookaholic #bibliophile #booklove #bookshelfporn #shelfie #bookhaul #bookworm #reader #IGbooks #bookstack