Tuesday 12 May 2020

Category winners and judges' citations, 2020
Click through for your copies. 

Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)       $35
Auē, by first-time novelist Becky Manawatu, introduces readers to the orphaned Arama, who is deposited in rural Kaikōura with relatives, and his brother Taukiri, a young man fending for himself in the big smoke. There is violence and sadness and rawness in this book, but buoyant humour, too, remarkable insights into the minds of children and young men, incredible forgiveness and a massive suffusion of love. With its uniquely New Zealand voice, its sparing and often beautiful language, the novel patiently weaves the strands of its tale into an emotionally enveloping korowai, or cloak. In the words of Tara June Winch, our international co-judge, “There is something so assured and flawless in the delivery of the writing voice that is almost like acid on the skin.”

How to Live by Helen Rickerby (Auckland University Press)     $25
How to Live names, excavates and exhumes both silenced and previously muffled women. There is a power in naming them and exploring their stories, like a poetic version of war memorials dotted throughout our cities and regions, villages. In doing so, these women get an identity, a voice and an intergenerational existence. This collection demands much of us: to move, to discover, to challenge, to chastise, to entertain, to teach, to dare and to awaken. It talks honestly about masculine/feminine yin/yang, and requires the reader to be and to consider both silence and listening, hearing and speaking. How to Live is a brave collection that doesn’t back down from a societal lesson that, unfortunately, still needs repeating, and often.

Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams and Puawai Cairns (Te Papa Press)        $70
From a strong pool of contenders, one book stood above the others, not only achieving excellence in writing, illustration and design, but also – crucially – tackling a vast and significant topic worthy of these urgent times. Readers are drawn into Aotearoa’s rich and raw stories from contact to now. Engaging, insightful and incredibly well-researched texts by multiple authors provide a cohesive and strong overall narrative, covering a huge breadth of our history and the themes that define us as a nation. The tactile, hand-hewn approach to design complements the huge variety of assiduously collected objects that are this book’s focus. 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.

Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press)     $40
From the first page, Shayne Carter‘s Dead People I Have Known invites the reader to jump right in and come along for the ride. What follows is an illuminating insight into the childhood, shaped by violence and addiction, of a boy who didn’t fit in and felt saved by music. The insider’s view of the development of the music scene in Dunedin makes a valuable contribution to the sparsely populated field of New Zealand music writing. More especially it is a fascinating look at what it means and how it feels to be a creative obsessive — pushing towards perfection despite and because of addiction, oblivion and isolation. It is rock-star writing: entertaining, revealing and incredibly heartfelt.

MitoQ Best First Book Awards

HUBERT CHURCH PRIZE FOR FICTIONAuē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press) 

JESSIE MACKAY PRIZE FOR POETRY: Craven by Jane Arthur (Victoria University Press)

JUDITH BINNEY PRIZE FOR ILLUSTRATED NON-FICTIONWe Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (Massey University Press)  

E.H. MCCORMICK PRIZE FOR GENERAL NON-FICTIONDead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press)    

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