The books reviewed by Challenge participants this month look very interesting.  We received reviews of award-winning and shortlisted books. Three biographies, a family history and books about Australians of diverse backgrounds were reviewed.  Migration and long journeys was a common thread linking many of the books reviewed this month.

toyo2We have received our first review of Toyo: A Memoir, the book which earned Lily Chan the 2013 Dobbie Literary Award.  This book is about Lily Chan’s Japanese grandmother who survives World War II, marries a Chinese-Japanese man and loses her Japanese citizenship as a result then moves to Perth with her family. After reading Toyo, Challenge reviewer, Jennifer Cameron-Smith, observed, “Toyo’s story is both interesting and moving”.  “Lily Chan has written a beautiful account/memoir of Toyo’s life… A wonderful tribute to Toyo’s memory”.

Butler Kittys WarLast week the shortlists for the NSW Premier’s History Awards were released and Kitty’s War was one of the shortlisted books.  It is about an Australian nurse serving during World War I.  At the end of her perceptive review Janine Rizzetti comments:

‘Kitty’s War’ is a reverent and sensitive tribute to Kit McNaughton.  It’s much more than a platform for making her diary available to a wider audience.  It shows the historian at work, shuttling between the small detail and wider overarching questions of gender, war, personal identity, Australian identity and the ANZAC legend.

mosaic-armstrongFamily history is a rich source of history.  A well written family history gives us interesting insights into the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary people in the past.  Pauleen Cass was absorbed by Diane Armstrong’s account of her Polish-Jewish family in her book, Mosaic.  “Those of us who live in the safety and sometimes tolerant society of Australia, can not have the slightest real idea of what anyone experienced during the war, let alone what the persecuted Jewish people suffered”, observed Pauleen. “I think this is an excellent book which transforms the wartime horrors for the Jewish people from a scale that most of us can barely imagine, to a personalised family story which enable us to see at a micro level how these events impacted families and individuals”.  However, Pauleen warns, “[i]f you believe it’s inappropriate to speak ill of the dead then you may not like this book but what she reveals of her family are people who have their own human frailties and quirks”.  Pauleen also reviewed Diana Armstrong’s account of her family’s passage to Australia in The Voyage of Their Life.

Finally I want to mention a very different review contributed by Susan Steggall.  She reviewed a biography by Helen Ennis published in a recent edition of the Australian Book Review. Histories, biographies and memoirs don’t only appear in books.  A short form of these genres proliferate in magazines, journals and ‘grey literature’ produced by government departments.  These can also be captivating reads and deserve our attention. We welcome reviews of these forms of histories, biographies and memoirs.

Susan Steggall is an art historian and biographer herself.  She not only reviews Ennis’ work but also shares some insights into biography as a form and some of the difficult issues that biographers face when writing.  Steggall’s piece helps readers of biographies gain insights into this form and is well worth the time to read.

Sadly I have run out of room to share with you the other well written reviews of fascinating books the Challenge received this month.  I urge you to check out our complete list of reviews of histories, biographies and memoirs received since the beginning of July here.  You can find the list of histories, biographies and memoirs reviewed for the Challenge for the first half of this year here.

Awards Update

Last week the shortlist for the NSW Premier’s History Awards was revealed. The winners will be announced on 12th September.  The shortlist for the Queensland Literary Awards will be announced tomorrow with the winners revealed on 4th September. These awards are special because they rely on a fundraising drive to finance the awards.  I encourage you to support the Queensland awards with a donation through the Queensland Literary Awards Pozible page.

As more shortlists have been released, awards given and reviews written I have updated last month’s list of memoirs, biographies and histories by women which have been shortlisted for literary prizes this year together with links to AWW reviews:

  • Alison Alexander, The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Allen & Unwin.
    • Queensland Literary Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Saliha Belmessous, Assimilation and Empire: Uniformity in the French and British Colonies, 1541-1954, Oxford University Press.
    • NSW Premier’s History Awards.
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Janet Butler, Kitty’s War: The Remarkable Wartime Experiences of Kit McNaughton, University of Queensland Press.
  • Kate Fullagar, The Savage Visit: New World People and Popular Imperial Culture in Britain, 1710-1795, University of California Press.
    • NSW Premier’s History Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Jane Gleeson-White, Double Entry, Allen & Unwin
    • New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards
    • Challenge reviews: Yvonne Perkins.
  • Jenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam, Random House Books Australia.
    • Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, National Biography Award, Queensland Literary Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Shino Konishi, The Aboriginal Male in the Enlightenment World, Pickering and Chatto.
    • NSW Premier’s History Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Lenore Layman and Criena Fitzgerald, 110° in the Waterbag, Western Australian Museum.
    • Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Jane Lydon, The Flash of Recognition: Photography and the Emergence of Indigenous Rights, New South Books.
    • Queensland Literary Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Julie McIntyre, First Vintage: Wine in colonial New South Wales, UNSW Press, New South Books.
    • NSW Premier’s History Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Patti Miller, The Mind of a Thief, University of Queensland Press.
  • Nicole Moore, The Censor’s Library, Penguin Books Australia.
    • Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Brenda Niall, True North, Text Publishing.
  • Fiona Olsson, Boy, Lost, UQP.
    • Queensland Literary Awards
    • Challenge reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Fiona Paisley, The Lone Protestor: A M Fernando in Australia and Europe, Aboriginal Studies Press.
  • Kate Richards, Madness: a Memoir, Penguin.
  • Rachel Robertson, Reaching One Thousand, Black Inc.
  • Lyndall Ryan, Tasmanian Aborigines, A history since 1803, Allen & Unwin
    • Ernest Scott Prize
    • Challenge Reviews: no reviews received yet
  • Barbara Santich, Bold Palates, Wakefield Press.
    • Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
    • Challenge reviews: Paula Grunseit.

The list of winning histories, biographies and memoirs written by women writers in 2013:

  • Melissa Bellanta, Larrikins: A History, University of Queensland Press. Winner Ernest Scott Prize. Reviewed by Janine Rizzetti.
  • Lily Chan, Toyo, Black Inc. Winner Dobbie Literary Award.  Reviewed by Jennifer Cameron-Smith.
  • Marie Williams, Green Vanilla Tea, Winner Finch memoir Award. Reviewed by Nicole Sulway.

Histories, biographies and memoirs written for young people should be an important focus of historical writing.  Thus far very few have been reviewed for the Challenge.  The NSW Premier’s History Awards includes a prize for histories directed at young people.  It would be good if Challenge participants could read and review these shortlisted books:

  • Jackie French, Dingo: the dog who conquered a continent, Harper Collins
  • Jackie French, Pennies for Hitler, Harper Collins

There are of course plenty of other good history books out there for young readers.  My personal favourite is Nadia Wheatley’s, My Place. It is very moving.  What is your favourite?

If none of the books listed above appeal to you, then check out the list of histories, biographies and memoirs by Australian women authors on the Challenge’s Goodreads bookshelves.

There is so much good reading out there!

About Me

DSC_6276 Yvonne PerkinsI’m Yvonne Perkins.  For the last few years I have been working as a research assistant on a variety of historical projects one of which was an investigation of the history of teaching reading in Australia. Currently I am researching the beliefs, religious or otherwise, of soldiers who served in World War I.  In my spare time I enjoy reading history and writing about it on my blog, Stumbling Through the Past.  I can also be found @perkinsy on twitter.

This post has been updated to include the shortlisted histories, biographies and memoirs for the Queensland Literary Awards and to add a blurb about the author of the post.