2016 Winners

Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize

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    The Wish Child

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Catherine Chidgey

    Catherine Chidgey

    Catherine Chidgey’s The Wish Child subtly examines territory unusual for a New Zealand writer with this original exploration of the edges of a much-written about historic time. Exposing and celebrating the power of words – so dangerous they must be cut out or shredded, so magical they can be wondered at and conjured with – Chidgey also exposes the fragility and strength of humanity. Elegantly written, there is an innerness to the book’s narrative which gives it authenticity and even authority. The fey, mysterious voice of the Wish Child, and the very human voices and activities of the book’s other children, are compelling and memorable. You’ll be caught by surprise with its plumbing of depths and sudden moments of grace, beauty and light.

Poetry Award

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    Fits & Starts

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Andrew Johnston

    Andrew Johnston

    The judges’ admiration for Andrew Johnston’s remarkable collection grew with each rereading, as its rich intellectual and emotional layers continued to reveal themselves. Fits & Starts is a slow-burning tour de force, each image, metaphor, theme deeply, fully imagined. It draws on a complex amalgam of sources, including the King James Bible, the radio alphabet, Ovid’s Metamorphosis and ancestry.com, and rewards the reader’s intelligence, attention and patience. Using a minimalist couplet-form, the collection is at once philosophical and political, witty and moving, risky and grounded, while maintaining a marvellously varied singing line. To reward Fits & Starts with the overall poetry prize is to reward New Zealand poetry at its most impressive and its most promising.

Illustrated Non-Fiction Award

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    A History of New Zealand Women

    Published by: Bridget Williams Books

    Barbara Brookes

    Barbara Brookes

    Putting women at the centre of our history, this sweeping survey shows exactly when, how and why gender mattered. It combines deep research, an immensely readable narrative, superbly well-integrated images and it is distinguished by close attention to both Māori and Pākeha women. General changes in each period are combined effortlessly with the particular, local stories of individual women, many not well-known. A wider sense of women’s experiences is beautifully conveyed by the many well-captioned artworks, photographs, texts and objects.

Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction

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    Can You Tolerate This?

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Ashleigh Young

    Ashleigh Young

    Ashleigh Young’s Can You Tolerate This? is a collection of personal essays that sets a high bar for style and originality in a form that has very little precedent in this country. Young takes the events in her life, including her family, her jobs, and all the emotional complications of living in this world and with remarkable honesty delivers a shrewd and honest reckoning. Always an acute observer, it is in Young’s commitment to writing as an art that the true miracle occurs; she tells us her story and somehow we get our own.

Best First Book

Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction

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    Black Ice Matter

    Published by: Huia Publishers

    Gina Cole

    Gina Cole

    Gina Cole’s short stories are vivid and compelling; this is a new, assured and vibrant voice in Aotearoa New Zealand and Pasifika fiction. Exploring the extremes of heat and cold, peopled with strong, interesting characters you want to know more about, these stories alternatively burn you down, freeze you in your tracks, comfort or cool you. Cole’s precise and elegant writing startles and delights, and it's exciting to read.

JESSIE MACKAY BEST FIRST BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY

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    Hera Lindsay Bird

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Hera Lindsay Bird

    Hera Lindsay Bird

    Hera Lindsay Bird’s eponymous debut collection is sassy, funny, seductive. It charms as it dares the reader to be shocked by its sexual frankness and revelations, by its insouciant dismissal of the past, its enjoyment of its own verbal and conceptual conjurations, its sheer performative energy. A particular pleasure is the exuberance of the metaphors and similes, where the pop spear-tackles the antique, the louche the romantic, the trivial the grand. There’s a hymn to hate, an elegy to ex-girlfriends, a paean to bad taste, a rejection of poetry, a celebration of poetry, an invitation to ‘slap yourself in the face with a mohair glove’ and to ‘say true-sounding things and never mean them’. These poems take no prisoners.

Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction

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    A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 1830-1930

    Published by: Auckland University Press

     Ngarino Ellis

    Ngarino Ellis and Natalie Robertson

    A careful re-tracing of the evolution of the Iwirākau School, which reinvigorated carving in the Ngāti Porou iwi after it became dormant in the 1830s, this book builds on earlier scholarship with extensive new research. Ngarino Ellis mounts an absorbing argument about tradition, innovation and how culture is transmitted. Natalie Robertson’s magnificent photographs of meeting houses, carvings and landscapes are integral to the narrative. Together they demonstrate the enduring role of carving at the heart of community and rangatiratanga.

E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction

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    My Father’s Island

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Adam Dudding

    Adam Dudding

    My Father's Island is a triumph of narrative, prose, and the great Kiwi yarn. Readers come so uncomfortably close to memories of joy, tension and mystery a testament to Adam Dudding's skill as a prose stylist and a storyteller. Yet My Father’s Island is more than just its aesthetics — it’s also an important piece of cultural history with Dudding approaching his subject, his father Robin Dudding, as only a journalist would and could, uncovering family secrets never told. Yet My Father’s Island remains, above all, a memoir, an enthralling account of life and family.

About the Best First Book Awards

The Hubert Church Award for Fiction was awarded from 1945 by PEN NZ (later the New Zealand Society of Authors), and named for Hubert Church, a poet, novelist and critic who died in 1932.

The Jessie Mackay Award for Poetry was awarded from 1940 by PEN NZ and named for the first locally born poet to achieve national prominence.

The Judith Binney Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction is named for the late historian Dame Judith Binney, whose several ground-breaking books demonstrated her lifelong commitment to researching and writing about the history of New Zealand.

The E H McCormick Award for General Non-Fiction is named for the late Eric McCormick, the eminent historian and biographer of Frances Hodgkins.