May! Oh glorious month of May! And what a truly glorious month it was for Magda Suzbanski and her memoir, Reckoning.
During May, Szubanski won the Australian Book Industry Award, Biography as well as taking out their overall Book of the Year Award. Reckoning also won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction.
May also saw Szubanski receive a shortlist nomination for the Dobbie Literary Award and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. She also made several appearances during the Sydney Writer’s Festival.
All of these awards and accolades are in addition to her winning the Indie Book Award for Non-Fiction and the Neilson BookData Booksellers Choice Award earlier in the year.
Szubanski has also been a favourite with our readers and reviewers here at AWW.
The Dobbie and Kibble Awards recognise women’s writing under the very broad genre of ‘life writing’. It includes any form of literature with a ‘strong personal element’. The Kibble Award recognises established authors while the Dobbie Award recognises an author published for the first time. The other shortlisted books that fit within our AWW definition of HMB are Drusilla Modjeska’s Second Half First and Fiona Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance.
May also saw the winner of the Finch Prize for Memoir announced during the Sydney Writer’s Festival. Mary Tennant won with her book, I Knew You Would Have Brown Eyes.
May was memoir month here at AWW as well, with 11 of our 14 reviews being for books featuring life stories.
Yvonne @Stumbling Through the Past introduces us to the fascinating story of Manijeh, born in Persia in a Baha’i community.
Manijeh: Not only a change of name, is a good example of the value of family history. Manijeh’s daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand recognised the significance of her mother’s story and spent many hours with her mother helping Manijeh tell her story to an Australian audience. This book is not an exercise in the aggrandisement of ancestors but an important snapshot of the social and religious history of another country. Many of those who havemigrated to Australia have fled from violence and repression, from armies or governments seeking to expunge the history of minorities from their land. Our country is home to many families such as Manijeh’s who are the custodians of another nation’s history.
Christine @Voices Under the Sun delved into the life and times of serial killer, Louisa Collins as portrayed by Carol Baxter in Black Widow. Christine has now read two biographies about Collins and has written an interesting piece comparing them.
My review of Last Woman Hanged can be seen here. Now, as I compare and contrast that book with Black Widow, it feels like I have come to understand two unique individuals that are both named Louisa Collins. The Louisa in Last Woman Hanged was a victim of her time, a woman with no political, economic and social rights, an accused murderer whose crime was never 100% ascertained, despite her conviction and subsequent execution. She was an ordinary woman whose plight inspired extraordinary opinions and actions that helped to shape Australia as a modern and truly democratic nation.
In sharp contrast, the Louisa in Black Widow is, as the book title implies, a serial killer “who broke not only the written criminal law but the unwritten social law. She breached society’s expectations of ‘womanly’ behaviour when it was particularly unwise to do so. Moreover, the face she presented to the world was cold and unemotional – ‘unwomanly’”.
On the history side, we have Ana @Ana Stevenson’s review of Settler Society in the Australian Colonies by Angela Woollacott.
This book brings new historical context to the colonisation of Australia and the convict system upon which this was based. Rather than focusing purely on New South Wales, as many historians have been wont to do, Woollacott discusses this first Australian colony with especial reference to South Australia and the Western Australian settlement of Australind, as well as Queensland, Victoria, and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Importantly, it places Australia’s “fledgling colonies not only as a connected continental network, but as part of the globally expanding British Empire” (4). The actions of free settlers are contextualised in terms of their pre-existing imperial experiences, for many had previously served in India and other colonies within the British Empire.
To read all the reviews posted for HMB during May, click here.
About Bronwyn: I have been a book blogger at Brona’s Books since 2009 and a bookseller (specialising in children’s literature) in Sydney since 2008. Prior to this I was as an Early Childhood teacher for 18 years in rural NSW.
I taught myself to read when I was four by memorising my Dr Seuss books. I haven’t stopped reading since.
You can find me on Twitter @bronasbooks.