Australia Day by Melanie Cheng

Australia Day.jpgTitle: Australia Day

Author: Melanie Cheng

Genre: Short stories, Fiction

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 3rd July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $29.95

Synopsis: Australia Day is a collection of stories by debut author Melanie Cheng. The people she writes about are young, old, rich, poor, married, widowed, Chinese, Lebanese, Christian, Muslim. What they have in common—no matter where they come from—is the desire we all share to feel that we belong. The stories explore universal themes of love, loss, family and identity, while at the same time asking crucial questions about the possibility of human connection in a globalised world.

Melanie Cheng is an important new voice, offering a fresh perspective on contemporary Australia. Her effortless, unpretentious realism balances an insider’s sensitivity and understanding with an outsider’s clear-eyed objectivity, showing us a version of ourselves richer and more multifaceted than anything we’ve seen before.

Prizes won:

  • Winner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2018
  • Longlisted, Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, 2018
  • Longlisted, ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, 2018
  • Longlisted, ABIA Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, 2018
  • Longlisted, Dobbie Literary Award for a first time published author, 2018
  • Shortlisted, Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, 2017
  • Winner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, 2016

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseAustralia Day by Melanie Cheng contains fourteen unique, and individual stories about Australians – those born here, immigrants, and from all walks of life, moving through a society and country that has various expectations, and where those they encounter respond to them in a variety of ways, from ignorance to trying to help, to saying the wrong thing and sometimes, misunderstandings that could happen to anyone, as well as clashes of cultural and generational expectations that illustrate the differences in everyone’s lives.

They are simple, yet complex – stories where identities and sense of self are sometimes at war internally, and sometimes externally, and where the flaws of humanity are exposed – no character is perfect, no character knows everything, and no character has ultimate control.

I wasn’t sure what story was my favourite because they were all so different and diverse. Melanie allowed the characters to speak for themselves, revealing their true natures, how they thought and went through their lives. Since publication, Australia Day has won two awards in 2016 and 2018, and been longlisted for four awards this year and shortlisted for one last year – a remarkable achievement for a new book, and very much deserved.

It is filled with various experiences of Australia and Australia Day – the first and last story – both taking place on Australia Day – bookend the book, with the in between stories taking place, around the day, before, or after, but still capturing something of what it means to be Australian, and how this differs for many people, regardless of your race or gender – that being Australian and living in Australia is not the same for everyone. It is a multicultural book, where cultures clash or come together, and where some people try to embrace the multicultural world, and accept it, or where some look upon the differences with disdain or disappointment that things are not what they always expect them to be – perhaps a key factor in Australia, with the ever-changing world we live in. I found this aspect to be the most interesting – to see how different people responded to and accepted difference, or perhaps, struggled to. How people tried but failed to be inclusive or perhaps said the wrong thing or felt trapped by what was going on around them and just tried to fit in with it all. The diversity these stories show give a snapshot into modern Australian life and how everyone is trying to find a way to live together.

An intriguing book, and one I enjoyed, as I don’t often read short stories but thoroughly enjoyed the way these were written and opened my eyes to the different way people approach living in Australia and Australia Day.

Booktopia

2018 NSW PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS

The NSW Government has a long tradition of celebrating and connecting the public with art and literature. The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are an opportunity to highlight the importance of literacy and literature, whilst enjoying and learning from the work of our writers in NSW and Australia. Like other literary awards, this award in highlighting the spectacular Australian Literature Australian writers produce, highlights and honours the achievements of Australia’s writers, and their artistic contributions to society, but also to highlight our literary achievements to the world. The State Library administers the awards.AWW-2018-badge-rose

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have more categories than the Victorian awards. These categories are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction

2017 Winner: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

2017 Shortlist: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers by Ryan O’Neill

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm

After the Carnage by Tara June Winch

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

2017 Winner: Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahil

2017 Shortlist:

The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

Dodge Rose by Jack Cox

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

The Bonobo’s Dream by Rose Mulready

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

2017 Winner: Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish

2017 Shortlist: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Talking to My Country by Stan Grant

The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft by Tom Griffiths

Avalanche by Julia Leigh

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire by Shane White

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry

2017 Winner: Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle

2017 Shortlist: Burnt Umber by Paul Hetherington

Breaking the Days by Jill Jones

Fragments by Antigone Kefala

Firebreaks: Poems by John Kinsella

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

2017 Winner: One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

2017 Shortlist: Elegy by Jane Abbott

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French 

the-ghost-by-the-billabong

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

2017 Winner: Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

2017 Shortlist: Magrit by Lee Battersby and Amy Daoud

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

Desert Lake Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Nick Enright Prize For Playwriting

 

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

2017 Shortlist:  The Hanging by Angela Betzein

You, Me and the Space Between by Finegan Kruckemeyer

Ladies Day by Alana Valentine

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting

2017 Winner: The Code – Series 2, Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

2017 Shortlist: Down Under by Abe Forsythe

Sucker by Lawrence Leung and Ben Chessel

The Kettering Incident episode 1 by Victoria Madden

Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

Cleverman Episode 5 “Terra Nullius” by Michael Miller

Multicultural NSW Award

 2017 Winner: The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

2017 Shortlist: Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson

Not Quite Australian: How Temporary Migration is Changing the Nation by Peter Mares

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara

Promising Azra Helen Thurloe – on my To Be Read pile.

The Fighter: A True Story by Arnold Zable

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Royall Tyler

2017 Shortlist: J.M.Q Davies

Penny Hueston

Jennifer Lindsay

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Jan Owen

2017 Shortlist: Christopher Williams

Indigenous Writer’s Prize – Biennial Prize Next Awarded in 2018

Last awarded in 2016.

2016 Winners: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe and Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

2016 Shortlist: Ghost River by Tony Birch

Inside My Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Dirty Words by Natalie Harkin

Not Just Black and White by Lesley Williams and Tammy Williams

Other Awards:

NSW Prize for Literature

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

People’s Choice Award

 2017 Winner: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

 Special Award

 The Special Award was last awarded to Rosie Scott AM in 2016.

Across these twelve categories and the three additional ones, there is a diverse range of authors and stories, that tell of personal experiences, imagined worlds and that draw on history and the world the authors have lived that led them to write these books. Each prize I have looked at so far has shown a different degree of diversity, with this one having a broader range, if only because it has more categories than the others I have looked at. Last year’s winners and nominees are in good company with past winners Peter Carey, David Malouf AO, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally AO and Helen Garner.

Each prize has a different amount of money, and further details can be found in the provided links. In 2018, the total prize money, including sponsored awards is up to $305 000, and to be nominated for any of these awards, the writer and illustrator must be living Australian citizens or hold permanent resident status.

Taken from the website:

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are presented by the NSW Government and administered by the State Library in association with Create NSW. We are pleased to acknowledge the support of Multicultural NSW and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The 2018 winners will be announced on 30 April 2018.The short-list will be announced in March.

Purchase any of the above books here:

Booktopia

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2018 Winners

2018 VPLA Victorian Premier's Literary Awards key art tile.jpg

Each year, the State Premiers of Australia nominate several books across several categories for literary awards, and each of the awards are announced at different times, and have different categories.  The Victorian awards were inaugurated in 1985 to honour Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

The Victorian awards are split into five categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults, with one winner in each. Each winner wins $25,000 and they go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. The Premier’s Award also incorporates the Unpublished Manuscript Award, won by Christian White for Decay Theory in 2017, and a biennial Award for Indigenous Writing. Both of these awards go onto contest the Victorian Literary Prize with the other five categories.

People can participate in the awards by voting for their favourite work on the shortlist, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which is named alongside the general categories wins $2,000.

In 2018, none of the winners were male or identified as male. Of the five winners, four were women, and one was non-binary – Alison Evans, whose novel, Ida, won The People’s Choice Award. This year’s winners were announced on the first of February.

The winners

  • The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-FictionThe Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for Fiction: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for DramaRiceby Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • The Prize for PoetryArgosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Prize for Writing for Young AdultsLiving on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • People’s Choice AwardIda by Alison Evans (Echo)

Of these, I have Australia Day by Melanie Cheng on my To Be Read list, and am deciding which of the others to explore.

The above winners were chosen and voted for from the following shortlist:

The shortlist

Fiction 

  • A New England Affair by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins)
  • Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Choke by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Restorer by Michael Sala (Text Publishing)
  • Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)

Non-fiction

  • The Museum of Words: A Memoir of Language, Writing and Mortality by Georgia Blain (Scribe Publications)
  • Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams (Text Publishing)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • For a Girl: A True Story of Secrets, Motherhood and Hope by Mary-Rose MacColl (Allen & Unwin)
  • No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow (Scribe Publications)
  • Tracker by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)

Drama

  • Rice by Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui (Sydney Theatre Company)
  • The Rasputin Affair by Kate Mulvany (The Ensemble Theatre)

Poetry

  • Argosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Metronome by Jennifer Maiden (Giramondo)
  • redactor by Eddie Paterson (Whitmore Press)

Writing for Young Adults

  • Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ida by Alison Evans (Echo)
  • Because of You by Pip Harry (UQP)

Highly commended

Fiction

  • No More Boats by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
  • Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman (Hachette)
  • Atlantic Black by A.S. Patrić (Transit Lounge)
  • Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington (MidnightSun)

Non-fiction 

  • They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention edited by Michael Green, André Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope (Allen & Unwin)

Poetry

  • I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)
  • Reading for a Quiet Morning by Petra White (GloriaSMH Press)

Young Adult

  • In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Reading up on as many of these entries as possible shows that this award strived for diversity too, and in naming four women and one non-binary author as winners, shows the importance of having these voices heard in society, but also the exemplary work these authors have achieved to have been nominated for these awards. Some of the authors on the shortlist were also nominated for the Stella Prize, and are on the 2018 Longlist, and information about this can be found on my post about the 2018 Stella Prize here.

Booktopia

2018 Stella Prize Longlist

download

On the 8th of February, 2018, the long-list for one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes was announced. The Stella Prize – a prize that recognises the contribution to literature of Australian Women Writers – announced its twelve-book long list yesterday in a year when women’s voices and diverse voices are starting to be heard more. This longlist showcases these diverse voices and shows how literature and the written word can drive political and social change, make people think and question what we think we know, what has been taught to us and what we have been told about the world. In these twelve books, women’s stories shine through fiction and non-fiction, the diversity of voices, and the fact that many were published by smaller presses, and some by larger presses illustrates the vibrancy of Australian publishing through our plethora of publishers, and the diversity and potency of women’s voices to explore issues that affect them at a personal, and social level, and that can impact the world around them and their understanding of it.

Of these books, I have read Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman, and am deciding which of the other eleven I might want to read. One book that has caught my eye is Michelle de Krester’s The Life to Come as has The Fish Girl by Miranda Riwoe, who has also written She Be Damned under pen name M.J. Tjia, published with Pantera Press.

The long-list:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work by Bernadette Brennan

Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (read and reviewed)

terra nullius

The Life to Come by Michelle de Krester

The Water: Five Tales by Beverley Farmer

The Green Bell: A Memoir of Love, Madness and Poetry by Paula Keogh

An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

The Choke by Sofie Laguna

Martin Sharp: His Life and Times by Joyce Morgan

The Fish Girl by Miranda Riwoe

Tracker by Alexis Wright

History of the Stella Prize

The idea of a prize to celebrate women’s literature began in 2011, from a panel meeting at an independent bookstore in Melbourne, Readings, on International Women’s Day that year. At the time, the panel was discussing the under-representation of women in the literary pages of the major newspapers in Australia as reviewers and the authors of books reviewed. At the time of this discussion in 2011, 70% of reviewed books were written by men.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe panel also discussed the under-representation of women as winners and nominees of literary prizes in Australia. in 2011, only ten women had ever won the Miles Franklin Award, which had been running for fifty-four years at the time. Since the inception of the Stella Prize, four women have won the Miles Franklin Award and 2013 had the first ever all-female shortlist for the prize. However, women not being nominated or winning is a trend across all major literary prizes, though in general, women are often winners of the fiction category of the state premier Literary Awards across Australia, but not often winners of non-fiction, despite women having written some brilliant and moving non-fiction that I have devoured and enjoyed. A full history can be read here on the website for the Stella Prize, but these discussions resulted in the creation of the Stella Prize, and the reclaiming of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin’s first name, Stella, for the name of a prize to honour writing by Australian women and recognise these voices across a diverse spectrum of identities and stories.

Past Winners:

2013 Stella Prize was  Carrie Tiffany forMateship with Birds.(Inaugural year).

mateship with birds

2014 Stella Prize was Clare Wright for The Forgotten Rebels of Eurekarebels of eureka

2015 Stella Prize was Emily Bitto for The Strays.

the strays

2016 Stella Prize was Charlotte Wood for The Natural Way of Things.

natural way of things

2017 Stella Prize was Heather Rose for The Museum of Modern Love.

museum of modern love

This year marks the sixth year the prize has been running, and the shortlist will be announced in March 2018, and the winner in April.

Booktopia

Stella Prize 2018 and #StellaSpark

download

There are many major literary awards that cover genres, styles, and various nationalities, and some that are international. However, there is one significant award in Australia that has been running since 2013. The Stella Prize is a major literary award that champions and highlights Australian women’s writing, and as a result, is an organisation that champions cultural change. It is named after one of the most iconic female writers in Australia – Stella Maria Sarah “Miles” Franklin. Fiction and non-fiction books by Australian women are eligible for entry. Below is a list of what the Stella Prize seeks to do, quoted from their website:

The Stella Prize seeks to:

  • recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contribution to literature

  • bring more readers to books by women and thus increase their sales

  • equip young readers with the skills to question gender disparities and challenge stereotypes, and help girls find their voice

  • reward one writer with a $50,000 prize – money that buys a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time, that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women, to focus on their writing

AWW-2018-badge-roseA prize that works to highlight the voices of women writers in Australia is highly commendable. It serves the purpose of allowing women of Australia, regardless of age, ethnicity, race and so forth, to be represented and be heard in reviews, in writing and across all avenues of connection about Australian Women Writers. Reading has always been a passion of mine and I have always enjoyed Australian literature, and in particular, literature written by Australian Women Writers. In the last two years, I have started to pay more attention to Australian Women Writers that I read, out of curiosity to see what kind of authors populate my list more, whilst still realising that there are many other authors that do not necessarily fall into the category of Australian women writers that I will read and enjoy.

One thing that the Stella Prize works on is the Stella Count – a survey of how many Australian women versus male writers are reviewed by major publications and literary magazines. To build up the profile of Australian women writers and when I can, women writers in general, I try and review as many of them as I can on my blog. To work out my count, I keep a log, not only of every book read during the year, but a separate log for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, to see how I fare in my goals.

This year, there is a new campaign – The Stella Spark Campaign, where people can share their favourite book they have read written by an Australian woman in the past year on social media using the hashtag – #StellaSpark. This is an amazing prize and imitative that works to amplify the voices of women writers in Australia and raise their profile. Each year I peruse the long and short lists of the prize to see if something jumps out at me, and sometimes to see if I have read one of the nominees or the winner.

The long list will be announced in February, with the shortlist announced in March.

My #StellaSparks

Facing the Flame by Jackie French

Facing the Flame

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

BeautyinThorns_Cover

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

nevermoor

A Dangerous Language

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017

Draekora

draekora