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UQP authors shortlisted for the 2022 Prime Minister's Literary Awards
Posted 07.11.2022

UQP authors shortlisted for the 2022 Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Congratulations to Tony Birch (Dark As Last Night), Chelsea Watego (Another Day in the Colony), Sherryl Clark and Briony Stewart (Mina and the Whold Wide World) for being shortlisted in the 2022 Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, have today announced the 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists.

The Awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional literary talents of established and emerging Australian writers, illustrators, poets and historians.

From Prime Minister Anthony Albanese:

It is fundamental that Australian writers, illustrators and historians continue to share their stories, connecting our people and pathing the way for reflection, education, entertainment and respect. These 30 shortlisted books demonstrate the major contribution literature makes in connecting Australians to our values, history and culture – and I congratulate these creatives for their excellent work. Being recognised through these prestigious awards helps build the international reputation of Australian creatives and puts Australia and its stories on the global map.

Dark As Last Night by Tony Birch (Fiction)

Judges' comments:

'Dark as Last Night', a volume of short stories by an Aboriginal writer about marginal lives and working class people is likely to become an Australian classic. Tony Birch has been described as "more like Chekhov, than Carver". He is sometimes brutal, sometimes tender, and always empathetic. Half in love with most of his characters, he is sharply insightful about those he doesn't love: the husband and father who beats his wife and daughter; or the neighbourhood kids who steal a child's much loved "shining red dragster bike", and smash it up after they are confronted. Birch has a wonderful ability to bring his stories to life with a bizarre but telling detail. A short, pencil thin woman, known as "Little Red" befriends the young female narrator of the title story "Dark as Last Night". Little Red recommends smoking to her young friend – "Cigarettes calm you down". She lives in a house, where a previous inhabitant papered the walls with old newspapers, stretching back decades. The landlord had offered to paint over them. She said no. She tells the narrator why: "I now have all these stories from around the world. They give me company."

These stories will give us company for a long time. Birch is a master story teller.

Another Day in the Colony by Chelsea Watego (Non-fiction)

Judges' comments:

"Once we were massacred, now we are researched." These six essays, written to Blackfullas from the embodied knowledge of an urban Indigenous woman, address the everyday and disavow double consciousness. The author discards being "a problem" for being "sovereign" and "funny". She rejects the politics of politeness and writes in the tradition of Du Bois and Deloria. No one, White or Black gets a free pass except the Indigenous community of Inala, a Brisbane suburb. Police ask a white woman if her parents know she is with "him", her Indigenous husband; they arrest a female member of a police liaison committee, and arrest and assault a female professor. Without permission, schools dress urban Aboriginal children in lap laps to entice female teachers to remote Queensland. The health sciences "bury the bodies of a dying race". The humanities pillage graves. There is a speaking circuit of cannibalistic white writers, expert on Aborigines. "DNA Aborigines" perform indigeneity and are the new Native Police measuring themselves by proximity to whiteness. Professor Watego contests "consumable Aboriginal culture."

Hope, she says, is for Whitefellas; Blackfullas must turn up, tell the truth, and live in an Indigenous sovereign present – with joy.

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark, illustrated by Briony Stewart (Children's literature)

Judges' comments:

"This deftly crafted verse novel tells a powerful story with depth and authenticity. We see and hear this story through Mina's eyes and voice, a young girl who can't wait to move into her own room. Her disappointment when her parents tell her that her long-awaited room will now be inhabited by a refugee boy, is acute, and stops Mina from engaging with Azzami. But gradually her resentment changes to curiosity as she starts to see things from Azzami's point of view and wonders about his life and what has brought him here.

Sherryl Clark evokes Mina's family life, her parents' values and attitudes, and Mina's emotional struggles as she faces a situation where she needs to act, to right a wrong.

Mina's voice is poetic and well-pitched and Briony Stewart's illustrations are a highlight, using marvelously expressive body language and unusual perspectives to eloquently express an important theme of this book: that pictures can be a profound form of communication when words are too hard to find."

This is an outstanding example of a verse novel for younger readers; a slim yet satisfying story that opens up a world of ideas with plenty of space for children to imagine, empathise and ponder complex issues and feelings.

Winners will be announced in a ceremony on Tuesday 13 December in Launceston, Tasmania.