Announced: the longlist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction

The longlist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction (the fiction element of The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards)  has just been announced.  And as always it reflects the rich, diverse, and vibrant literary scene in New Zealand. In this blog we are going to take a very quick look at the ten fiction contenders, but we strongly recommend a close look at the equally excellent Non-Fiction categories.

In the longlist this year we have…

Gigi Fenster’s A Good Winter; a gripping dark and, in some respects, demanding thriller set in an apartment block among a group of women. The novel was initially abandoned by the author who said “The lead character took over the work in not-so-good ways.’ Gigi eventually submitted it to and won the Michael Gifkins prize. Aljce in Therapy Land by Alice Tawhai is the debut novel from the acclaimed short story writer. Online relationships, stoned characters and logic, workplace bullying, quantum physics all overlayed with aspects of Alice in Wonderland in this smart, funny, and complex work.  Entanglement by Bryan Walpert is a multi-layered, multi-faceted work that weaves big ideas about the nature of existence and time into the integral fabric of the plot, whilst also being very personal about the characters’ inner lives. In Stephanie Johnson’s Everything Changes the central characters buy a rundown motel as a way of restarting their lives in this moving and funny work. A brother and sister from a Māori-Russian-Catalonian family negotiate the stormy waters of modern romance, largely from the Auckland apartment they share, in Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly, described by one reviewer as “part Shakespeare, part Wes Anderson”.

In Whiti Hereaka’s Kurangaituku a part bird, part woman central character “the Kurangaituku” retells her life from her inception till her death and beyond. This mythological tale is about love, in both its destructive and creative aspects. Sue Orr’s Loop Tracks is set in two time periods; the late 1970’s in Auckland and 2019 in Wellington, and centres around young sixteen-year-old Charlie’s choices and decisions in 1978, and how they flow into her 2019 future.  She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall is set in the very near future in New Zealand where the effects of climate change are really beginning to bite and affect both our physical world but also our society in this sharp and darkly funny work. Confidence tricksters, compulsive liars and jumbled up childhood memories all feature in Emma Neale’s excellent first collection of short stories Pink Jumpsuit: short fictions, tall truths. And to round up the list is Clare Moleta’s Unsheltered; a powerful tale of a woman’s search for her daughter set against a background of destructive weather and social disintegration.

As always there are several novels that might have made the cut but didn’t,  the most notable being  Jacqueline Bublitz’s wonderful Before You Knew My Name.

We have also had the recent pleasure of having Kirsten McDougall in conversation with Rajorshi Chakraborti and interviewing Bryan Walpert  about their nominated books; you can watch these interviews at the end of this blog.

A good winter. / Fenster, Gigi
“I looked after Lara. We both looked after Sophie and her baby. We had to. It’s not like Sophie was going to look after that baby herself. All she was interested in was weeping and wailing for her dead husband. She was so busy weeping and wailing for her dead husband that she rejected his baby who was right in front of her. When Olga’s friend Lara becomes a grandmother, Olga helps out whenever she can. After all, it’s a big imposition on Lara, looking after her bereaved daughter and the baby. And the new mother is not exactly considerate. But smoldering beneath Olga’s sensible support and loving generosity is a deep jealous need to be the centre of Lara’s attention and affection—a need that soon becomes a consuming, dangerous and ultimately tragic obsession.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Aljce in therapy land / Tawhai, Alice
“On her first day the sky had a salmon tint to it; after the rain, and before the cloud entirely cleared, as if it had been put into a washing machine with roses. Someone was probably really annoyed at the way they had run. Aljce parked in the asphalt car park outside the Therapy Hub. She was looking forward to her new job. It would be an exciting adventure with new challenges.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Entanglement / Walpert, Bryan
“A memory-impaired time traveller attempts to correct a tragic mistake he made in 1977 when, panicked, he abandoned his brother on a frozen lake in Baltimore. Decades later, in 2011, a novelist researching at the Centre for Time in Sydney becomes romantically involved with a philosopher from New Zealand. Another eight years on, and a writer at a lake retreat in New Zealand in 2019 obsesses over the disintegration of his marriage following another tragedy. Are these separate stories, or are they one? Is the time traveller actually travelling? Can the past be changed? As the answers to these questions slowly emerge, the three tales become entangled, along with the usual abstractions: love, desperation and physics.” (Catalogue)

Everything changes / Johnson, Stephanie
Buying a rundown motel to start a new life — what could possibly go wrong? In this funny and moving novel, prize-winning author Stephanie Johnson turns her wry eye on us. ‘What a fabulous read. Stephanie Johnson’s characters choose an old motel with little to offer except an amazing view in order to start a ‘new life’. Their first guests are a classic cast of the sorrowful and dysfunctional that every-day life throws at us these days.  This is her best book ever, and I loved every page of it.’ – Fiona Kidman” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Greta & Valdin / Reilly, Rebecca K
“Valdin is still in love with his ex-boyfriend Xabi, who used to drive around Auckland in a ute but now drives around Buenos Aires in one. Greta is in love with her fellow English tutor Holly, who doesn’t know how to pronounce Greta’s surname, Vladislavljevic, properly. From their Auckland apartment, brother and sister must navigate the intricate paths of modern romance as well as weather the small storms of their eccentric Māori-Russian-Catalonian family” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

Kurangaituku / Hereaka, Whiti
“In the void of time, Kurangaituku, the bird-woman, tells the story of her extraordinary Life – the birds who first sang her into being, the arrival of the Song Makers and the change they brought to her world, her life with the young man Hatupatu, and her death. But death does not end a creature of imagination like Kurangaituku. In the underworlds of Rarohenga, she continues to live in the many stories she collects as she pursues what eluded her in life. This is a story of love – but is this love something that creates or destroys?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Loop tracks / Orr, Sue
“It’s 1978: the Auckland abortion clinic has been forced to close and sixteen-year-old Charlie has to fly to Sydney, but the plane is delayed on the tarmac. It’s 2019: Charlie’s tightly contained Wellington life with her grandson Tommy is interrupted by the unexpected intrusions of Tommy’s first girlfriend, Jenna, and the father he has never known, Jim. The year turns, and everything changes again… written in real time against the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic and the New Zealand General Election and euthanasia referendum” (Adapted from Catalogue)

She’s a killer / McDougall, Kirsten
“The world’s climate is in crisis and New Zealand is being divided and reshaped by privileged immigrant wealthugees. Thirty-something Alice has a near-genius IQ and lives at home with her mother with whom she communicates by Morse code. Alice’s imaginary friend, Simp, has shown up, with a running commentary on her failings. ‘I mean, can you even calculate the square root of 762 anymore?’ The last time Simp was here was when Alice was seven, on the night a fire burned down the family home. Now Simp seems to be plotting something. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Pink jumpsuit : short fictions, tall truths / Neale, Emma
“In Emma Neale’s first collection of short fiction, the tales range from the surreal to the real; from the true to the tall. This collection includes some of her internationally recognised flash fiction and more extended examinations of the eerie gaps and odd swerves in intimate relationships. There are confidence tricksters, compulsive liars, emotional turn-coats, the pulse of jumbled childhood memory still felt in adult life, the weird metamorphosis of fantasy hardening into reality…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Unsheltered / Moleta, Clare
“Against a background of social breakdown and destructive weather, Unsheltered tells the story of a woman’s search for her daughter. Li never wanted to bring a child into a world like this but now that eight-year-old Matti is missing, she will stop at nothing to find her. As she crosses the great barren country alone and on foot, living on what she can find and fuelled by visions of her daughter just out of sight ahead, Li will have every instinct tested. She knows the odds against her: an uncompromising landscape, an uncaring system, time running out, and the risks of any encounters on the road. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Astonishing journeys and bookish broads: recent biographies of note

Astonishing journeys, a pioneering feminist, bookish broads, an Ockham Award winning book and a funny but thoughtful reflection on turning 50, all feature in these latest biographies.

Nuestra América : my family in the vertigo of translation / Lomnitz-Adler, Claudio
“A riveting exploration of the intersecting lines of Jewish and indigenous Latin American thought and culture, by way of a family memoir. In Our America, eminent anthropologist and historian Claudio Lomnitz traces his grandparents’ exile from Eastern Europe to South America. His grandparents stories intersect with leftist political movements in 1920s Peru, the Holocaust, Colombia’s political unrest and Israel’s beginnings. This immigrant family memoir recounts history with psychological insight and the immediacy of a thriller.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Floating in a most peculiar way / Chude-Sokei, Louis Onuorah
“The first time Chude-Sokei realizes that he is ‘first son of the first son’ of a renowned leader of the bygone African nation is in Uncle Daddy and Big Auntie’s strict religious household in Jamaica, where he lives with other abandoned children. Then his mother, the onetime “Jackie O of Biafra,” sends for him to come live with her in Inglewood, Los Angeles. In this world, anything alien– such as Chude-Sykes’s secret obsession with science fiction and David Bowie– is a danger. His yearning to become a Black American gets deeply, sometimes absurdly, complicated. This is his memoir of the redemptive skill of navigating not just Blackness, but Blacknesses, in his America. — adapted from jacket” (Catalogue)

Kate Edger : the life of a pioneering feminist / Morrow, Diana
“In 1877, Kate Edger became the first woman to graduate from a New Zealand university. Edger went on to become a pioneer of women’s education in New Zealand. She also worked tirelessly to mitigate violence against women and children and to fortify their rights through progressive legislation. She campaigned for women’s suffrage and played a prominent role in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and in Wellington’s Society for the Protection of Women and Children. Diana Morrow tells the story of this remarkable New Zealand woman’s life in a very readable book which provides valuable insights into the role of women social reformers in our history.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Bookish broads : women who wrote themselves into history / Marino, Lauren
“Women have written some of our most extraordinary literary works while living in societies and cultures that tried to silence them. In Bookish Broads, Lauren Marino celebrates fierce, trailblazing female writers, reworking the literary canon that has long failed to recognize the immense contributions of women. Featuring more than 50 brilliant bookish broads, Marino cleverly illuminates the lives of the greats as well as the literary talents history has wrongfully overlooked. Each intimate portrait delves into one woman’s works and is accompanied by vibrant illustrations depicting each literary legend in her element and time.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Of the winner of the General Non Fiction category at the 2021 Ockham Book Awards (Vincent O’Sullivan’s biography of Ralph Hotere), category convenor Dr Sarah Shieff said that as a biographer, O’Sullivan displayed masterly skill:

This is a sensitive, detailed portrait of one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important modern artists, shaped around the four pou of Hotere’s identity: his Māoritanga, his faith, his whenua, and his whānau. The judges would like to commend Vincent O’Sullivan for an extraordinary achievement in biography.” (NZ Book Awards Trust)

Ralph Hotere : the dark is light enough : a biographical portrait / O’Sullivan, Vincent
“Ralph Hotere (Te Aupouri and Te Rarawa; 1931-2013) was one of Aotearoa’s most significant modern artists. Hotere invited the poet, novelist and biographer Vincent O’Sullivan to write his life story in 2005. Now, this book – the result of years of research and many conversations with Hotere and his fellow artists, collaborators, friends and family – provides a nuanced, compelling portrait of Hotere: the man, and the artist.” (Publisher information)

Turns out, I’m fine / Lucy, Judith
“Judith Lucy was just Great! Sure, the last remaining member of her immediate family had died, she was menopausal, she suspected her career was in the shitter and it seemed like the world was going to hell in a handbasket – but everything would work out because SHE HAD A MAN. Then, in the space of twenty-four hours, her relationship came apart and so did she. A broken heart became the catalyst for a complete existential melt down. She was nearly fifty, suddenly alone and unsure about every aspect of her life. How had this happened? She tries everything from dating a tree to getting a portrait of her vulva done to swimming with a whale shark. Thanks to a series of revelations and a slight drowning experience, Judith slowly starts to realise that her life is still full of possibilities and despite death, heartache and a dry vagina it turns out … she’s fine.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Best First Book Awards: The Winners!

Congratulations to all the recently announced MitoQ Best First Book Awards winners at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. They show what a vibrant and thriving literary scene we have at the moment–one we should be proud of. Surprisingly all the winners this year were Wellington based. The winners were:

Fiction: Victory Park by Rachel  Kerr

Poetry: I Am A Human Being by Jackson Nieuwland​

General Non-Fiction: Specimen: Personal Essays by Madison Hamill

Illustrated Non-Fiction: Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso


We have recently had the great pleasure of hosting events on and offline for three of the winners!

Jackson Nieuwland

I am a human being / Nieuwland, Jackson
“Poet Jackson Nieuwland’s first published collection is a beautiful, complex and surreal body of work. The poems within are very intimate and display vulnerability, and fragility. Working with the concept that no single word can adequately defines us and the multiplicity of who we are and what we have, the potential to become is explored in a sequence of poems such as I am an egg, I am a tree, I am a beaver, I am a bear, I am a bottomless pit, etc. The works within are delicately accompanied by Steph Maree’s line drawings.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Madison Hamill

Specimen : personal essays / Hamill, Madison
“A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar … In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others?” (Catalogue)


Rachel Kerr

Victory Park / Kerr, Rachel
“Kara lives in Victory Park council flats with her young son, just making a living by minding other people’s kids – her nightly smoke on the fire escape the only time she can drop her guard and imagine something better. But the truth is life is threadbare and unpromising until the mysterious Bridget moves in to the flats. The wife of a disgraced Ponzi schemer she brings with her glamour and wild dreams and an unexpected friendship.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A Capital Crimespree: Newtown Mystery in the Library, 6pm April 30

Do you enjoy delving into some darkness in your reading?

The Ngaio Marsh Awards, in association with Wellington City Libraries, invites booklovers to a fun evening of criminally good conversation, featuring five outstanding local storytellers.

Three-time Ockham New Zealand Book Awards listee Brannavan Gnanalingam chairs a panel discussion with 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award and Ockham winner Dame Fiona Kidman, 2021 Ockham longlistee Sally J Morgan, and New York Times bestselling writing duo Dr Judy Melinek and TJ Michell. From crafting rich characters alongside exciting storylines to addressing real-life issues through their fiction, much will be revealed.

When: 6pm, Friday 30 April 2021
Where: Newtown Library, 13 Constable Street, Wellington 6021

This is a free event.

Dame Fiona Kidman has published over 30 books, including novels, poetry, non-fiction and a play. She has worked as a librarian, radio producer and critic and as a scriptwriter for radio, television and film. Her novel This Mortal Boy won the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel as well as the Acorn Prize for Fiction, the NZ Booklovers Award and the NZSA Heritage Book Award.

Brannavan Gnanalingam is a Wellington lawyer and writer of fiction and non-fiction. His past three novels have all been listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards; Sodden Downstream  was shortlisted in 2018. His latest novel Sprigs has been called a “scarily contemporary and realistic story… an extraordinary piece of writing” (Kim Hill, Radio NZ).

Sally J Morgan is a Professor at Massey University Wellington, conceptual artist, and cultural historian. She grew up in a Welsh mining town and as a young women was once offered a lift by the serial killers Fred and Rose West. Sally declined, but that experience planted the seeds for her debut novel Toto Among The Murderers, which is longlisted for the 2021 Acorn Prize for Fiction.

Dr Judy Melinek and TJ Mitchell are the husband-and-wife writing duo behind the Jessie Teska forensic mysteries and the New York Times bestselling non-fiction book Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the making of a medical examiner, based on Judy’s training with the Chief Medical Examiner in New York. TJ previously worked in the film industry.

Please note “Mature/ adult issues of a challenging nature” may be discussed.

This mortal boy / Kidman, Fiona
“Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders? Black’s final words, as the hangman covered his head, were, ‘I wish you all a merry Christmas, gentlemen, and a prosperous New Year.’ This is his story.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook .

Sprigs / Gnanalingam, Brannavan
“It is Saturday afternoon and two boys’ schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya – a fifteen year old who barely belongs – watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying. Priya’s friends have evaporated and she isn’t sure what to do. In the weeks after ‘the incident’ life seems to go on. But when whispers turn to confrontation, the institutions of wealth and privilege circle the wagons.”–cover.” (Catalogue)

Toto among the murderers / Morgan, Sally J
“‘It is 1973 and Jude – known to her friends as Toto – has just graduated from art school and moves into a house in a run-down part of Leeds. Jude is a chaotic wild child who flirts with the wrong kind of people, drinks too much and gets stoned too often. Never happy to stay in one place for very long, her restlessness takes her on hitchhiking jaunts up and down the country. Her best friend, Nel, is the only steady influence Jude has but Nel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems. At the same time infamous murderers, Fred and Rosemary West, are stalking the country, on the lookout for girls like Jude.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Working stiff : two years, 262 bodies, and the making of a medical examiner / Melinek, Judy
” Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. While her husband and their toddler held down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation–performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy’s two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Crime-writing duo Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell coming to Newtown Library

You may have heard American forensic pathologist and crime writer Judy Melinek and her husband and co-author TJ Mitchell interviewed by Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand at the end of March. They’re the writing sensations behind the Jessie Teska forensic mystery books — and they’re coming to Newtown Library!

The couple will part of a panel discussion in an exciting line-up that includes three-time Ockhams New Zealand Book Awards listee Brannavan Gnanalingam, 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award and Ockhams winner Dame Fiona Kidman, and 2021 Ockhams long listee Sally J Morgan.

What? A Capital Crimespree – Newtown Mystery in the Library Panel Discussion, an event in association with the Ngaio Marsh Awards.

When? 6pm, Friday 30 April

Where? Newtown Library, 13 Constable Street, Newtown

Facebook Event Link

We’re so excited to host all these crime-writing luminaries, and in subsequent posts we’ll be profiling them all, but because they were recently interviewed on Radio New Zealand, we thought we’d kick off our panellist profiles with Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell — two authors with storied pasts who relocated to Wellington from America in July 2020.

Judy Melinek is a doctor and forensic pathologist who trained in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Her working life is the subject of the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, co-authored with her husband, writer T.J. Mitchell, and the two also collaborate on their series of novels featuring medical examiner Jessie Teska. Today Dr. Melinek performs autopsies as a forensic pathologist in Wellington, New Zealand.

T.J. Mitchell, as well as being a bestselling author, also has a past as a scriptwriter for Hollywood. To hear more about their remarkable lives and times and how actual forensic practice informs their fictional works, pop along to our Newtown Mystery in the Library event!

Listen to Kim Hill’s interview with this intriguing pair of authors (18 min.)

Please note “Mature/ adult issues of a challenging nature” may be discussed.

Browse their work below:

Working stiff : two years, 262 bodies, and the making of a medical examiner / Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
“Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. While her husband and their toddler held down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation–performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines Flight 587. An unvarnished portrait of the daily life of medical examiners–complete with grisly anecdotes and chilling crime scenes” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.First cut : a novel / Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
“For San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr Jessie Teska, it was supposed to be a fresh start. A new job in a new city. A way to escape her own dark past. Instead she faces a chilling discovery when a suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister. Jessie’s superiors urge her to close the case, but as more bodies land on her autopsy table, she uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate plot involving nefarious opioid traffickers and flashy tech titans who got rich off Bitcoin. Autopsy means ‘see for yourself,’ and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all – even if it means the next corpse on the table could be her own.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.Aftershock / Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
“At first glance, the death appears to be an accident. The body, located on a construction site, rests under a collapsed beam. But when Dr Jessie Teska arrives on the scene, she notices the telltale signs of a staged death. The victim has been murdered. A rising star in the San Francisco forensics world, Jessie is ready to unravel the case, help bring the murderer to justice and prevent them from potentially striking again. But when a major earthquake hits San Francisco right before Halloween, Jessie and the rest of the city are left reeling. And even if she emerges from the rubble, there’s no guaranteeing she’ll make it out alive. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

2021 Fiction Ockham Shortlist Announced

(Image credit: New Zealand Book Awards Trust.)

The Ockham 2021 fiction shortlist has just been announced and what a wildly diverse, eclectic and fabulous list it is. There are two previous winners in there – Pip Adam and Catherine Chidgey – and it is safe to say that, as befits New Zealand’s top fiction award, some very challenging issues are explored in several of the books, including the Holocaust, the aftermath of a sexual assault at a high school rugby game, surveillance, gender and the longtail effects of capitalism.

The quality and calibre of all four finalists in the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction is quite exceptional and all four books are highly readable and available to borrow from Wellington City Libraries.

You can also see shortlisted author Brannavan Gnanalingam at our forthcoming A Capital Crimespree event at Newtown Library on the 30th of April.  For full details of that event click here.

Bug week & other stories / Beautrais, Airini
“A science educator in domestic chaos fetishises Scandinavian furniture and champagne flutes. A group of white-collar deadbeats attend a swinger’s party in the era of drunk Muldoon. A pervasive smell seeps through the walls of a German housing block. A seabird performs at an open-mic night. Bug Week is a scalpel-clean examination of male entitlement, a dissection of death, an agar plate of mundanity. From 1960s Wellington to post-Communist Germany, Bug Week traverses the weird, the wry and the grotesque in a story collection of human taxonomy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Nothing to see / Adam, Pip
“It’s 1994. Peggy and Greta are learning how to live sober. They go to meetings and they ring their support person, Diane.  They live with Heidi and Dell, who are also like them. It’s 2006. Peggy and Greta have two jobs: a job at a call centre, and a job as a moderator for a website. They’re teaching themselves how to code. Heidi and Dell don’t live together anymore. It’s 2018. Margaret lives next door to Heidi and her family. She has a job writing code that analyses data for a political organisation, and she’s good at it. Every day she checks an obsolete cellphone she found under her bed, waiting for messages. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Remote sympathy / Chidgey, Catherine
“Moving away from their lovely apartment in Munich isn’t nearly as wrenching an experience for Frau Greta Hahn as she had feared.  Frau Hahn and the other officers’ wives living in this small community can order anything they desire, whether new curtains made from the finest French fabrics, or furniture designed to the most exacting specifications. Life here in Buchenwald would appear to be idyllic. When Frau Hahn is forced into an unlikely and poignant alliance with one of Buchenwald’s prisoners, Dr Lenard Weber, her naïve ignorance about what is going on so nearby is challenged.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sprigs / Gnanalingam, Brannavan
“It is Saturday afternoon and two boys’ schools are locked in battle for college rugby supremacy. Priya – a fifteen year old who barely belongs – watches from the sidelines. Then it is Saturday night and the team is partying. Priya’s friends have evaporated and she isn’t sure what to do. In the weeks after ‘the incident’ life seems to go on. But when whispers turn to confrontation, the institutions of wealth and privilege circle the wagons.”–cover. (Adapted from Catalogue)

 

For a  full list of all other categories shortlisted, see below:

2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards: Non-Fiction Winners!

Last week we profiled the fiction and poetry winners of the 2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards. This week we celebrate the non-fiction winners!

“It is rock-star writing: entertaining, revealing and incredibly heartfelt”

The 2020 General Non-Fiction Award went to Shayne Carter, musician and front man of Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer, for his memoir, Dead People I Have Known (Victoria University Press). Carter also won the E.H. McCormick Prize for best first work of General Non-Fiction. The category judges said of the first-time author’s work: “It is rock-star writing: entertaining, revealing and incredibly heartfelt”.  Rachel King’s marvelous Spin Off essay  about Dead People I Have Known noted that: “The best thing about the book is Shayne’s ability to fully recreate a scene as if he is standing right there experiencing it, and we are standing there with him”.  Reserve a copy of this powerful book here.

Watch Shayne Carter read from Dead People I Have Known here.

“From the obscure and ephemeral to the well-known and loved, the images allow us to be witness to – and challenge us to learn from – our shared past of resistance, dissent and activism”

Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams (Tūhoe, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Hauiti), and Puawai Cairns (Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāiterangi) – three Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa curators – won the 2020 Illustrated Non-Fiction Award for their work Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance. The judges observed that: “From the obscure and ephemeral to the well-known and loved, the images allow us to be witness to – and challenge us to learn from – our shared past of resistance, dissent and activism”.

Alice Webb-Liddall wrote that: “Movements led by Māori, by women and by children continue to shape New Zealand’s community and policy, and have made us world leaders in areas like women’s suffrage. A collection of objects become the markers of every movement, and Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams and Puawai Cairns have collated some of the most important, most beautiful and most confronting of these”. Reserve a copy of this fascinating and important book here.

Watch Stephanie Gibson read from Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance here.

“The book is not only a reflection of New Zealand’s diversity of people and whenua, but also speaks to how we interact with our environment” 

The 2020 Judith Binney Prize for best first work of Illustrated Non-Fiction went to Chris McDowall and Tim Denee for We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa (Massey University Press). RNZ noted that this book “is not only a reflection of New Zealand’s diversity of people and whenua, but also speaks to how we interact with our environment”. Reserve a copy of this book, which is more than just an atlas, here.

2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards: Fiction & Poetry Winners!

The results are in: the winner of this year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards is debut author Becky Manawatu with Auē!

Manawatu (Ngāi Tahu) was up against big names, including Elizabeth Knox, Owen Marshall and Carl Shuker, but managed to emerge victorious with a story about the death of an orphaned boy that has been described as an “immense, deep and powerful work” and has been compared to both Once Were Warriors and The Bone People. Check out an exert from the novel here or reserve a copy here!

Also victorious last night was Helen Rickerby with How to Live. Rickerby won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry, beating out Anne Kennedy, Steven Toussaint and Ashleigh Young. How to Live is Rickerby’s third collection, and has been described as “lucid, uplifting, provocative, revealing, acidic, groundbreaking“.  Have a listen to ‘How to Live Through This’ from How to Live here, or reserve a copy of the collection via our catalogue!

Watch Becky Manawatu read from Auē:

Watch Helen Rickerby read from How to Live:

Ockham NZ Book Awards Illustrated Non-Fiction Long List

As well as General Non-Fiction, the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards have a special category for Illustrated Non-Fiction. The 2020 long list for this category, which has just been announced, includes magnificently illustrated books that both inform and entertain.

The Ockham short lists will be announced on 4 March, and the final prize winners will be presented with their awards on 12 May.

Check out the titles in the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award category long list!

Crafting Aotearoa: a cultural history of making in New Zealand and the wider Moana Oceania / Chitham, Karl
“A major new history of craft that spans three centuries of making and thinking in Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Moana (Pacific). Paying attention to Pākehā, Māori, and island nations of the wider Moana, and old and new migrant makers and their works, this book is a history of craft understood as an idea that shifts and changes over time.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Protest Tautohetohe: objects of resistance, persistence and defiance / Gibson, Stephanie
“Aotearoa New Zealand has a long legacy of activism. This richly illustrated book brings together over 300 objects made by protestors to proclaim and symbolise their causes and their struggles. From banners to badges, t-shirts to tea towels, posters to photographs, it is a vivid reflection of 250 years of resistance and persistance.” (Catalogue)

Frances Hodgkins: European journeys
“This vivid and revealing book is published alongside a landmark exhibition focused on one of our most internationally recognized artists, Frances Hodgkins. Complete with a rich visual chronology of the artist’s encounters abroad, alongside over one hundred of Hodgkins’ key paintings and drawings, the book is an illuminating journey that moves us from place to place through the writings of a number of distinguished art historians, curators and critics.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Funny as: the story of New Zealand comedy / Horan, Paul
“On TV, film, and live, New Zealand comedy has never been bigger. Published alongisde a major Television New Zealand documentary series, Funny As is a big, authoritative, funny history of New Zealand’s funny men and women. From capping bands to the Topp Twins, hori humour to Billy T James, Lynn of Tawa to Fred Dagg, New Zealanders have made each other laugh in ways distinctive to our peoples and our culture. In 400 pictures and a text built on deep research and over 100 interviews with comics, this book will be Funny As.” (Catalogue)

We are here: an atlas of Aotearoa / McDowall, Chris
“This compelling mix of charts, graphs, diagrams, maps and illustrations is beautiful, insightful, and enlightening. It helps us make sense of our country, to grasp its scale, diversity and intricacies, and to experience feelings of connection to land, to place, to this time in our history, and to one another. By making data visible, each graphic reveals insights: Who visits us? How many fish are in the sea? How do we hurt ourselves? Where do our cats go to at night?  Essays by some of New Zealand’s best thinkers complete the package.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Louise Henderson: from life
“This is the first major survey of the life and work of French-born, New Zealand artist Louise Henderson (1902-1994). Featuring work from across Henderson’s seven-decade career, the book and accompanying exhibition trace the development of the artist’s bold and colourful abstract style. Henderson worked alongside other major figures including Rita Angus, John Weeks, Colin McCahon and Milan Mrkusich and was one of the first New Zealand artists to commit herself to an overtly modern style.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

McCahon country / Paton, Justin
“In this landmark book, celebrated writer and curator Justin Paton takes readers on a journey through the landscape of Aotearoa, as the artist loved and painted it. From Otago to Canterbury, Takaka to Taranaki, Muriwai to Northland and many more places in between, Paton brings his curator’s eye to a selection of nearly 200 of McCahon’s paintings and drawings, including iconic and beloved works and others never before published.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Colin McCahon: there is only one direction. Vol. I 1919-1959 / Simpson, Peter “In the first of a two-volume work chronicling 45 years of painting by New Zealand artist, Colin McCahon, leading McCahon scholar, writer, and curator Peter Simpson chronicles the evolution of McCahon’s work over the artist’s entire career. Each volume includes over 300 colour illustrations, with a selection of reproductions (many never previously published), plus photographs, catalogue covers, facsimiles and other illustrative material.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

The meaning of trees / Vennell, Robert
“This treasure of a book pays homage to New Zealand’s native plant species while telling the story of plants and people in Aotearoa. Beautifully illustrated with botanical drawings, paintings and photographs, it shows us how a globally unique flora has been used for food, medicine, shelter, spirituality and science. From Jurassic giants to botanical oddballs – these are our wonderful native and endemic plants.” (Adapted from our catalogue)


The New Photography: New Zealand’s First-generation Contemporary Photographers / McCredie, Athol
“Athol McCredie is a leading NZ photography curator and in this beautiful book he tells the story of the beginning of contemporary/art photography in Aotearoa. Photographers discussed include Gary Baigent, Max Oettli, and Ans Westra.” (Adapted from Fishpond)

Ockham NZ Book Awards General Non-Fiction Long List

The 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards long list has been announced and contains a myriad of marvelous books in the General Non-Fiction Award category. It is heartening to see such a fantastic list of true stories that are ours and that have enriched our lives and nation.

The short list will be announced on 4 March, and the final prize winners will be presented with their awards on 12 May.

Check out all the titles – we have them all in our libraries –  in the General Non-Fiction Award category long list here:

Women mean business: colonial businesswomen in New Zealand / Bishop, Catherine
“From Kaitaia in Northland to Oban on Stewart Island, New Zealand’s nineteenth-century towns were full of entrepreneurial women. Then, as now, there was no typical businesswoman. They were middle and working class; young and old; Māori and Pākehā; single, married, widowed and sometimes bigamists. Their businesses could be wild successes or dismal failures, lasting just a few months or a lifetime.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Dead people I have known / Carter, Shayne
“In Dead People I Have Known, legendary New Zealand musician Shayne Carter tells the story of a life in music, taking us deep behind the scenes and songs of his riotous teenage bands Bored Games and the Doublehappys and his best-known bands Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer. He traces an intimate history of the Dunedin Sound and his own life in a frank, moving, and often funny autobiography.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Dead letters: censorship and subversion in New Zealand, 1914-1920 / Davidson, Jared
“Intimate and engaging, this dramatic narrative weaves together the personal and political, bringing to light the reality of wartime censorship. In an age of growing state power, new forms of surveillance and control, and fragility of the right to privacy and freedom of opinion, Dead Letters is a startling reminder that we have been here before.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Shirley Smith: an examined life / Gaitanos, Sarah
“Shirley Smith was one of the most remarkable New Zealanders of the 20th century, a woman whose life-long commitment to social justice, legal reform, gender equality, and community service left a profound legacy. Her life was shaped by some of the most turbulent currents of the 20th century, and she in turn helped shape her country for the better.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Wild honey: reading New Zealand women’s poetry / Green, Paula
“Highly regarded poet and anthologist Paula Green is the author of this much overdue survey of New Zealand’s women poets. The selection is generous, the tone is at times gentle and accessible, and Green’s reach is wide.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Finding Frances Hodgkins / Kisler, Mary
“When Frances Hodgkins first left New Zealand in 1901, location became a key factor in her determination to succeed as an artist. In this engaging book, Mary Kisler follows in Hodgkins’ footsteps through England, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain and Wales to discover the locations in which Hodgkins constantly pushed her exploration of modernism. Warm, insightful, fresh, expert and richly illustrated with more than 70 artworks, this handsome book sheds new light on Hodgkins’ life, art and social milieu.” (Adpated from our catalogue)

Towards the mountain: a story of grief and hope forty years on from Erebus / Myles, Sarah
“Marking the 40th anniversary of the Erebus disaster, this is the first book on that tragedy written by a member of one of the affected families.” (Catalogue)

The New Zealand Wars  Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa / O’Malley, Vincent
“Vincent O’Malley’s new book provides a highly accessible introduction to the causes, events and consequences of the New Zealand Wars. The text is supported by extensive full-colour illustrations as well as timelines, graphs and summary tables.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Fifteen million years in Antarctica / Priestley, Rebecca
“Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica offers a deeply personal tour of a place in which a person can feel like an outsider in more ways than one. With generosity and candour, Priestley reflects on what Antarctica can tell us about Earth’s future and asks: do people even belong in this fragile, otherworldly place?” (Adapted from our catalogue)

Whale oil / Thomson, Margie
“The shocking, and completely true story of blogger Cameron Slater known as Whale Oil and his systematic online attack of Auckland businessman Matt Blomfield that destroyed Blomfield’s reputation and career and turned him into a social outcast. Blomfield spent seven years and hundreds of thousands of dollars taking a defamation case against Slater, which he ultimately won, establishing that Slater’s vendetta was based entirely on lies. This book is a remarkable piece of investigative writing, a story of courage and tenacity, which reminds us how important it is to stand up to bullies, and to be reassured that in the end they do not always win.” (Adapted from our catalogue)

The 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist

The 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist has just been announced and what a fabulous, rich and diverse list it is. Ranging from The Man Who Would Not See by Rajorshi Chakraborti to Caroline’s Bikini by Kirsty Gunn, from The New Ships by Kate Duignan to All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan, the judges are going to have a hard time selecting an overall winner. It’s great to see how healthy and flourishing the New Zealand fiction world is. May the best book win!

The 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for fiction (Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize) longlisted titles are:

Syndetics book coverThe man who would not see / Rajorshi Chakraborti.
“As children in Calcutta, Ashim and Abhay made a small mistake that split their family forever. Thirty years later, Ashim has re-entered his brother’s life, with blame and retribution on his mind. It seems nothing short of smashing Abhay’s happy home will make good the damage from the past. At least, this is what Abhay and his wife Lena are certain is happening. A brother has travelled all the way from small-town India to New Zealand bearing ancient – and false – grudges, and with the implacable objective of blowing up every part of his younger brother’s life. Reconciliation was just a Trojan horse. But is Ashim really the villain he appears to be, or is there a method to his havoc?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe new ships / Kate Duignan.
“Peter Collie is adrift in the wake of his wife’s death. His attempts to understand the turn his life has taken lead him back to the past, to dismaying events on an Amsterdam houseboat in the seventies, returning to New Zealand and meeting Moira, an amateur painter who carried secrets of her own, and to a trip to Europe years later with his family. An unexpected revelation forces Peter to navigate anew his roles as a husband, father and son. Set in Wellington after the fall of the Twin Towers, and traversing London, Europe, the Indian subcontinent.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMazarine / Charlotte Grimshaw.
“When her daughter vanishes during a heatwave in Europe, writer Frances Sinclair embarks on a hunt that takes her across continents and into her own past. What clues can Frances find in her own history, and who is the mysterious Mazarine? Following the narrative thread left by her daughter, she travels through cities touched by terrorism and surveillance, where ways of relating are subtly changed, and a startling new fiction seems to be constructing itself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCaroline’s bikini : an arrangement of a novel with an introduction and some further materials / Kirsty Gunn.
“Art needs a sense of lack to bring about its own effects; where there is no feeling of need to make up a shortfall, there will be no work. Alright’ I said, ‘I’ll try…’ This is how Emily Stuart opens the intricately involved account of a classic love affair that becomes Caroline’s Bikini: a tale of hope, passion, and the power of the imagination. For they say, the story of love – or, rather, falling in love – is timeless, and that unrequited love is the most passionate of all. It’s certainly a narrative that is, in its own curious and enticing way, as old as Western literature itself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cage / Lloyd Jones.
“Two mysterious strangers appear at a hotel in a small country town.
Where have they come from? Who are they? What catastrophe are they fleeing?
The townspeople want answers, but the strangers are unable to speak of their trauma. And before long, wary hospitality shifts to suspicion and fear, and the care of the men slides into appalling cruelty.
Lloyd Jones’s fable-like novel The Cage is a profound and unsettling novel about humanity and dignity and the ease with which we’re able to justify brutality.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Ice Shelf / Anne Kennedy.
“On the eve of flying to Antarctica to take up an arts fellowship, thirty-something Janice, recently separated, has a long night of remembrance, regret and realisation as she goes about the city looking for a friend to take care of her fridge while she’s away. En route she discards section after section of her novel in the spirit of editing until there is nothing left to edit. The Ice Shelf, a novel written as Acknowledgements, is an allegory for the dangers of wasting love and other non-renewable resources.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThis mortal boy / Fiona Kidman.This Mortal Boy
“Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe imaginary lives of James Pōneke / Tina Makereti.
“The tale of James Poneke- orphaned son of a chief; ardent student of English; wide-eyed survivor. All the world’s a stage, especially when you’re a living exhibit. But anything can happen to a young New Zealander on the savage streets of Victorian London. When James meets the man with laughing dark eyes and the woman who dresses as a man, he begins to discover who people really are beneath their many guises. Although London is everything James most desires, this new world is more dark and dazzling than he could have imagined.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAll this by chance / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“If we don’t have the past in mind, it is merely history. If we do, it is still part of the present. Esther’s grandparents first meet at a church dance in London in 1947. Stephen, a shy young Kiwi, has left to practice pharmacy on the other side of the world. Eva has grown up English, with no memory of the Jewish family who sent their little girl to safety. When the couple emigrate, the peace they seek in New Zealand cannot overcome the past they have left behind. Following the lives of Eva, her daughter Lisa and her granddaughter Esther, All This by Chance is a moving multi generational family saga about the legacy of the Holocaust and the burden of secrets never shared, by one of New Zealand’s finest writers.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Due in the library shortly and already highly regarded is Majella Cullinane’s The Life of De’Ath set in Otago and the battlefields of France during World War I. It’s a searing read about deserters during the War I, and a young man struggles to find himself and break free of the social and family pressures to conform. 

 

 

Wellingtonian author Pip Adam wins top NZ fiction prize!

Local Wellingtonian author Pip Adam has won the top fiction prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards with her fantastic novel The New Animals. Published in 2017, this is Pip’s second novel. The award win includes a $50,000 cash prize and has been won previously by Catherine Chidgey, Eleanor Catton, Emily Perkins and other fantastic writers.

In November we interviewed Pip about The New Animals, so make sure to give the blog post a read if you haven’t already. We have the book in our collection in both print and ebook formats, so be sure to reserve it now!

Syndetics book coverThe new animals / Pip Adam.
“Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember, for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality. Pip Adam’s new novel walks the streets of Auckland city now, examining the fashion scene, intergenerational tension and modern life with an unflinching eye. From the the wreckage and waste of the 21st century, new animals must emerge.” (adapted from Syndetics)

Pip Adam's The New Animals