Pybus wins 2021 National Biography Award for ‘Truganini’
Cassandra Pybus has won the 2021 National Biography Award for Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse (A&U).
Pybus wins $25,000, while the other authors shortlisted for the award receive $2000 each.
Pybus’s book charts the losses endured by Truganini, a Nuenonne woman from Bruny Island off Tasmania, her people and other clans in 1800s colonial Tasmania.
This year’s judges Suzanne Falkiner, Rick Morton and Mandy Sayer unanimously agreed Truganini was ‘the standout work in an impressive field’, presenting a clear-eyed view of a subject whose voice ‘has been lost in the self-serving narrative of modern Australia’.
‘Drawn from first-person accounts by missionary George Augustus Robinson and contemporaries, Truganini emerges here as neither “antipodean Pocahontas” nor witless captive. After witnessing the murder and abduction of her family members, she is betrayed time and again before dying in Hobart in 1876.
‘By striking through the pomposity of Truganini’s major chronicler, Robinson, Pybus presents the reader with a vivid and complex portrait … Truganini claims her place as a survivor, never passive even in the face of a determined effort to eradicate Aboriginal people from Tasmania. She uses charm and shrewdness to attempt to engineer a future that allows her and her people to go home. Pybus’ command of her research is significant, penetrating past mistakes of fact or interpretation and revealing Truganini as a three-dimensional person.’
Also announced on 26 August was the $5000 Michael Crouch Award for a Debut Work, which went to Andrew Kwong for his memoir One Bright Moon (HarperCollins).
The winner of the 2020 National Biography Award was Patrick Mullins for Tiberius with a Telephone: The life and stories of William McMahon (Scribe).
For more information about the award, visit the State Library of New South Wales website here.