Hello 2021 Readers!
2021 has been a strange and often hard year for many of us. I shan’t be sad in bidding it adieu. For myself, I had to put a research project I wished to finish many months ago on hold due to ill health. I achieved only half of my reading goal and even less of my book reviewing target. And that’s okay…because life. I just wanted to share it to remind myself and perhaps others who are trying to write, make art, or do anything really, that it is a perfectly reasonable response to feel frustrated or stagnated considering everything that is going on. And most of all, that they pale in comparison to more important things. Don’t stop making and don’t stop persisting even if it’s at a sloth pace. Those cute weirdos get to their destination eventually.
The end of the year also brought us changes to the Australian Women Writers Challenge which is beginning a new phase of its metamorphosis. As a keen lover of literary history I am excited about its new direction and look forward to learning much and hopefully contributing too. If you want to get an idea of what kind of books will be showcased I highly recommend checking out Whispering Gums and The Australian Legend as a starting point who have been reviewing these time periods with great success for many years (though there are others too!).
The Australian Women Writers website began life as a reading and reviewing challenge in 2012. Its purpose was to promote reviewing of books by Australian women and was inspired, in part, by the statistical evidence supplied by the VIDA report, and later the Stella Count, that works by women were less likely than works by men to be reviewed in mainstream media and literary journals.
From 2022, the website will no longer host a challenge for works by contemporary authors, but will instead focus on 19th- and 20th-century authors who may not have achieved prominence in their lifetimes, or whose works have been forgotten and/or overlooked. The reading and reviewing activity initiated by the challenge will continue in our Facebook groups, Love Reading Books by Aussie Women and Australian Women Writers News and Events.
Now, A Look At The Year That Was…
Unfortunately the reviews for both Non-Fiction and Poetry books decreased in 2021. Compared to 2020, Non-Fiction reviews were down approximately 25% and Poetry roughly 31%. Nevertheless there were some cracking reviews of a range of titles!
Total reviews for 2021: 96
Compared to 2020: 127
Most reviewed books:
1. The Husband Poisoner (2021)
by Tanya Bretherton
Reviewed 4 times
2. 488 Rules For Life (2019)
by Kitty Flanagan
Reviewed 3 times
3. Larrimah (2021)
by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson
Reviewed 3 times
Although these titles clearly show a predilection for true crime (which is arguably its own genre seperate from general non-fiction), having read these reviews the interest is more complex than that. It’s about context and culture, about the wider picture that these stories take place in, and how they shape who and what we are both individually and as a society. Social history becomes the platform for pondering greater concepts that are often confronting or contradictory. Even Kitty Flanagan’s comedy in 488 Rules For Life is in essence a social critique. Stories, including (or debatably especially) those that are true, are what we are made of.
Total reviews for 2021: 20
Compared to 2020: 29
Most reviewed books:
1. After Australia (2020)
edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad
Reviewed 2 times
2. Bindi (2020)
by Kirli Saunders
Reviewed 2 times
I think the top reviewed books for poetry show something altogether similar to the non-fiction titles, but in a different way. Poetry pushes boundaries of form and content, it challenges assumptions as well as biases with biting lines and swift phrases. It is not surprising to me therefore that it is dominated by diverse voices and by challenges to the dominant narrative, especially by Aboriginal writers. The personal and the political come roaring into contention and we feel in reading them the very palpable truth that not everything can be said neatly or objectively. By often embracing fragmentation, they console us with words that represent the very powerful, fragile, and uncertain existence our humanness must bear. And yet, somehow, offer us respite and hope as well. These almost magical, ethereal stories, are also an intrinsic part of us.
A Fond Farewell
That’s it for poetry and non-fiction for wrap ups. It has been delightful reading all your reviews. Thank you to anyone who contributed, especially in the last couple of months — your reviews are very much included in these numbers. Also deep thanks to those who consistently submitted reviews over the year.
For the last time, here are some of the top reviewers of 2021 for you to check out, especially if this area of literature interests you:
Happy Reading 🤓📚
Tegan from Slant Postscripts
By Tegan Edwards
I write about stories and language at Slant Postscripts. I’ve worked extensively on nineteenth century fiction by women and decided it was high time I was more acquainted with books from this period that are closer to home. Did you know that the first book ever published on mainland Australia was by a woman? I have a project about it coming soon.
I write mostly about literary history and fiction which make up much of my research work. However my more personal writing often deals with different concepts such as illness, interpretation, trauma, injustice, and melancholia. Add me on Goodreads – I’d love to see what you’re reading!