Stella Prize Shortlist

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The announcement of the 2018 shortlist for the annual Stella Prize happened today, on International Women’s Day. From a long-list of twelve, six have made the shortlist, and it is a diverse, eclectic and powerful selection of the voices of Australian women. The importance of this, at a time when women’s voices are demanding to be heard in all spheres is important: the diversity in these books should be interesting, and I have at least two on my to read list, and one on my read list. Of the others, I am yet to decide if I will add them to my growing to be read lists and piles, as they look just as interesting as the ones I have chosen to read.

This year’s shortlisted books and authors are diverse and relevant and show the breadth of writing by Australian women. The themes in the books are about family, politics, identity and what has been, and what might come. The diversity of these stories is what gives them their power.

Shortlist:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

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This book is an extraordinarily powerful and evocative literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that sweeps across an ancient land and its people. Azar is the consummate storyteller, using the panoply of Persian mythical and mystical entities to bring life, humour, hope, resignation, and profound insights to the characters and their world.

Terra Nullis by Clare G. Coleman

terra nulliusJacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.

This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history. This TERRA NULLIUS is something new, but all too familiar.

This is an incredible debut from a striking new Australian Aboriginal voice.

The Life to Come by Michelle de Krester

 

Michelle-de-Kretser_The-Life-to-Come-669x1024.jpgSet in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.

Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.

Profoundly moving as well as wickedly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present. This extraordinary novel by Miles Franklin-winning author Michelle de Kretser will strike to your soul.

 

 

An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

 

Krissy-Kneen_An-Uncertain-Grace_High-Res-669x1024.jpgSome time in the near future, university lecturer Caspar receives a gift from a former student called Liv: a memory stick containing a virtual narrative. Hooked up to a virtual reality bodysuit, he becomes immersed in the experience of their past sexual relationship. But this time it is her experience. What was for him an erotic interlude, resonant with the thrill of seduction, was very different for her—and when he has lived it, he will understand how.

Later…

A convicted paedophile recruited to Liv’s experiment in collective consciousness discovers a way to escape from his own desolation.

A synthetic boy, designed by Liv’s team to ‘love’ men who desire adolescents, begins to question the terms of his existence.

L, in transition to a state beyond gender, befriends Liv, in transition to a state beyond age.

Liv herself has finally transcended the corporeal—but there is still the problem of love.

An Uncertain Grace is a novel in five parts by one of Australia’s most inventive and provocative writers. Moving, thoughtful, sometimes playful, it is about who we are—our best and worst selves, our innermost selves—and who we might become.

 

The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe

Mirandi-Riwoe_The-Fish-Girl.jpgSparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, ‘The Four Dutchmen’, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.

Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.

 

Tracker by Alexis Wright

Tracker-by-Alexis-Wright_from-Giramondo-665x1024.jpg 

Alexis Wright returns to non-fiction in her new book, a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth, who died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.

Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.

Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them. Having known him for many years, Alexis Wright interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together in a manner reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize–winning author Svetlana Alexievich. The book is as much a testament to the powerful role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of an extraordinary man.

I look forward to hearing which of these books wins in April. Reading about them, I think the judges have a very tough decision to make.

 

Booktopia

2018 Stella Prize Longlist

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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

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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

The Stella Prize 2017

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In 2013, The Stella Prize, a major literary award that celebrates Australian women’s writing and Australian women writers was established. Named after one of Australia’s most iconic female writers, Stella Maria Sarah “Miles” Franklin, 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
  • Provide role models for schoolgirls and emerging female writers
  • 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,

aww2017-badgeThe Stella Prize also participates in the Stella Count, looking at how many male and female writers are reviewed each year for newspapers. This count is conducted to understand reading and reviewing habits, and hopefully, highlight more women writers, authors of various sexualities, ethnicities, race and gender identities, and also disabilities. The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge encourages this too – in reading more women writers whose identity can be made of one, or several of these distinctions, the profile of women writers is highlighted.

The Stella Prize has been running for five years. Below are the winners for each year, from the most recent to the earliest prize:

2017 Winner

museum of modern love

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose “The Museum of Modern Love is an unusual and remarkable achievement, a meditation on the social, spiritual and artistic importance of seeing and being seen. It is rare to encounter a novel with such powerful characterisation, such a deep understanding of the consequences of personal and national history, and such dazzling and subtle explorations of the importance of art in everyday life.”

2017 Shortlist

Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clark

Poum and Alexandre by Catherine de Saint Phalle

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose (Winner)

Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor

2017 Longlist:

Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clark

Poum and Alexandre by Catherine de Saint Phalle

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose (Winner)

Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor

Victoria by Julia Baird

Offshore by Madeline Gleeson

The High Places by Fiona McFarlane

Avalanche by Julia Lee

Wasted by Elspeth Muir

The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard

2016 Winner

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

 

natural way of things

2015 Winner

The Strays by Emily Bitto

the strays.jpg

2014 Winner

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Claire Wright

rebels of eureka

2013 Winner

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany

mateship with birds

Link to the website with the short and long lists for each year: http://thestellaprize.com.au/

I haven’t read many of the winners or the short and long list books yet, but have Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2014), and The Golden Age by Joan London (2015) and a few undecided titles on my want to read list. I look forward to trying to read a few this year, and seeing what next year brings.

By these books here: