The shortlist has been announced for the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, including Australia’s richest single literary prize worth $100,000. The 23 shortlisted titles comprise some of 2019’s best fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults and unpublished manuscripts.
The shortlist includes multi-award-winning author Christos Tsiolkas; critically-acclaimed novelists Tara June Winch and Wayne Macauley; award-winning writer and journalist Anna Krien; singer-songwriter Archie Roach; investigative journalist Jess Hill; award-winning playwright, author and poet Samah Sabawi; CuriousWorks founder and Co-Curious artistic director S. Sivanathan; award-winning poet LK Holt; and award-winning young adult author Holden Sheppard.
The fiction shortlist includes the tale of St Paul and the Roman Empire; a short story collection of Lebanese immigrants and their families; an allegorical and satirical novella about a man and his donkey; a powerful account of dispossession; and a brilliant narrative of guilt and reckoning, trauma and survival.
The non-fiction shortlist has an electrifying true story of fear and sacrifice; the story of domestic abuse in Australia; a deeply collaborative, lyrical, and rich telling of Yolhu Songspirals; and a memoir of the man who brought the Stolen Generation into the mainstream with a single song.
The drama shortlist comprises of an epic story of love and political strife, of home and exile; a searing and sharply-edged work about the horrors of war; and a scream of rage and despair from the heart of our First Nations people.
The poetry shortlist includes a textured and personal exploration of maternal love; a work that highlights colonial Australia’s uneasy and fragile relationship to the Aboriginal Countries they occupy; and an inspection of the complexity of what it means to be alive in the world today.
The writing for young adults’ shortlist encompasses a complex and contradictory tale of Australian masculinity; a portrayal of characters whose lives exist on the margins; and a story about loss, and the things we gain in its space.
The unpublished manuscript shortlist includes a gripping tale of three people who are struggling to find meaning in their lives; a meditation on the importance of community and of being vulnerable to other people; and an exploration of the space and crossroads between three friends.
Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said: ‘This year’s shortlist reflects the incredible richness and diversity of Australian writing. From the epic to the deeply personal, these works traverse generations and tell important stories of our times. Congratulations to the 23 shortlisted writers whose collective works offer the ultimate summer reading list.’
The winners of the fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults’ prize each receives $25,000. The unpublished manuscript winner receives $15,000. All six of the award categories go on to contest the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature.
The public are encouraged to participate in the awards by voting for their favourite book published in 2019 at wheelercentre.com. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be named alongside the general category winners and will receive $2,000.
The winners will be announced and presented with their awards on Thursday 30 January, 2020 at MPavilion, this year designed by influential Australian architect Glenn Murcutt AO, in the Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne. The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.
2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist
Prize for Fiction
• The House of Youssef by Yumna Kassab (Giramondo Publishing)
• Act of Grace by Anna Krien (Black Inc.)
• Simpson Returns by Wayne Macauley (Text Publishing)
• Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas (Allen & Unwin)
• The Yield by Tara June Winch (Penguin Random House)
Prize for Non-Fiction
• Songspirals: Sharing women’s wisdom of Country through songlines by Gay’wu Group of Women (Allen & Unwin)
• The Girls by Chloe Higgins (Picador Australia)
• See What You Made Me Do: Power, Control and Domestic Abuse by Jess Hill (Black Inc.)
• Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Can Teach Us about Digital Technology by Lizzie O’Shea (Verso)
• Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music by Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster Australia)
• Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson (HarperCollins Publishers)
Prize for Drama
• Them by Samah Sabawi (La Mama Theatre in association with Samah Sabawi and Lara Week)
• Counting and Cracking by S. Shakthidharan. Associate Writer Eamon Flack (Belvoir and Co-Curious)
• City of Gold by Meyne Wyatt (Currency Press, Queensland Theatre and Griffin Theatre)
Prize for Poetry
• Yuquimbiang by Louise Crisp (Cordite Books)
• Nganajungu Yagu by Charmaine Papertalk Green (Cordite Books)
• Birth Plan by LK Holt (Vagabond Press)
Prize for Writing for Young Adults
• How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox (Pan Macmillan Australia)
• Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard (Fremantle Press)
• This is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing)
Prize for Unpublished Manuscript
• Hovering by Rhett Davis
• In Real Life by Allee Richards
• A Million Things by Emily Spurr