Debut memoir wins Australia’s richest literary prize
In February this year, first-time author Veronica Gorrie took home Australia’s richest literary prize, the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature at the 2022 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, for her memoir Black and Blue: A memoir of racism and resilience (Scribe). ‘Her personal journey, from thinking she can change Aboriginal worlds through joining the police force through to being an abolitionist, is an urgent story to be told and one that must be heard,’ said the prize judges of the book, which also won the $25,000 prize for Indigenous writing. Winners in other categories included Melissa Manning’s short story collection Smokehouse (UQP) and Amani Haydar’s memoir The Mother Wound (Macmillan).
The 2021 winners of similarly government-funded prizes the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (PMLAs) were announced late last year, with veteran Tasmanian writer Amanda Lohrey winning the $80,000 fiction category for her novel The Labyrinth (Text). Lohrey’s eighth work of fiction, The Labyrinth previously won the prestigious 2021 Miles Franklin Literary award and was also the recipient of the 2021 Voss Literary Prize. Other books awarded the $80,000 PMLAs prize money last year include The Stranger Artist (Quentin Sprague, Hardie Grant) for nonfiction, and People of the River (Grace Karskens, A&U) for Australian history.
Awarded in the category of literature every three years, the 2021 Melbourne Prize for Literature for an outstanding body of work went to The Slap and long-time Allen & Unwin author Christos Tsiolkas. While Tsiolkas took home the $60,000 prize, poet and author of the recently Stella Prize-shortlisted collection Dropbear (UQP) Evelyn Araluen won the $20,000 Professional Development Award; writer and comics artist Eloise Grills won the $15,000 Writer’s Prize; and Maxine Beneba Clarke was named the winner of the public-voted Civic Choice Award.
Presented biennially by the South Australian government, the 2022 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature were presented across 11 categories earlier this month. The Yield by Tara June Winch (Penguin) (which has won several high-profile awards including the 2020 Miles Franklin), was awarded both the $15,000 fiction prize and the $25,000 prize for best overall published work, while other category winners included Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis (HarperCollins) for nonfiction, and Fifteeners by the late Jordie Albiston (Puncher & Wattmann) for poetry.
A whole spate of well-regarded awards were announced towards the end of last year. Victorian writer Jock Serong won the $50,000 ARA Historical Novel Prize in the adult category for The Burning Island (Text), while Sofie Laguna’s fourth novel Infinite Splendours (A&U) was awarded the $20,000 Colin Roderick Literary Award and the H T Priestley Medal, and Luke Stegemann’s book Amnesia Road (NewSouth) took home the $20,000 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award, which recognises the role research plays in fiction and nonfiction.
Also in nonfiction, The Winter Road by Kate Holden (Black Inc.) won the 2022 Walkley Book Award for excellence in nonfiction and long-form journalism, while two essay collections jointly won the 2021 Small Press Network Book of the Year Award: Echoes (Shu-Ling Chua, Somekind Press) and We Are Speaking in Code (Tanya Vavilova, Brio). Beloved Australian author Trent Dalton recently won the 2022 Indie Book of the Year for his first work of nonfiction, Love Stories (Fourth Estate). Chosen by independent booksellers around Australia, this year’s Indie Awards also went to category winners including Once There Were Wolves (Charlotte McConaghy, Hamish Hamilton) for fiction, The Silent Listener (Lyn Yeowart, Penguin) for debut fiction, and Still Life (Amber Creswell Bell, Thames & Hudson) for illustrated nonfiction.
Diana Reid, who wrote her first book Love & Virtue (Ultimo) during lockdown in Sydney, won the 2022 MUD Literary Prize for a debut novel, while fellow debut author Andrew Pippos was recognised for Lucky’s (Picador), which won last year’s Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, chosen by booksellers from Australian bookselling chain Readings. In terms of genre fiction, the 2021 Danger Prize for the best book about Sydney crime went jointly to novel Trust (Chris Hammer, A&U) and true crime book I Catch Killers (Gary Jubelin with Dan Box, HarperCollins), while Laura Jean McKay’s The Animals in that Country (Scribe), which won the 2020 Victorian Prize for Literature, has since won the UK’s Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction.