2020 Awards

JANN MEDLICOTT ACORN PRIZE FOR FICTION

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    Auē

    Published by: Mākaro Press

    Becky Manawatu

    Becky Manawatu

    Auē, by first-time novelist Becky Manawatu, introduces readers to the orphaned Arama, who is deposited in rural Kaikōura with relatives, and his brother Taukiri, a young man fending for himself in the big smoke. There is violence and sadness and rawness in this book, but buoyant humour, too, remarkable insights into the minds of children and young men, incredible forgiveness and a massive suffusion of love. With its uniquely New Zealand voice, its sparing and often beautiful language, the novel patiently weaves the strands of its tale into an emotionally enveloping korowai, or cloak. In the words of Tara June Winch, our international co-judge, “There is something so assured and flawless in the delivery of the writing voice that is almost like acid on the skin.”

MARY AND PETER BIGGS AWARD FOR POETRY

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    How to Live

    Published by: Auckland University Press

    Helen Rickerby

    Helen Rickerby

    How to Live names, excavates and exhumes both silenced and previously muffled women. There is a power in naming them and exploring their stories, like a poetic version of war memorials dotted throughout our cities and regions, villages. In doing so, these women get an identity, a voice and an intergenerational existence. This collection demands much of us: to move, to discover, to challenge, to chastise, to entertain, to teach, to dare and to awaken. It talks honestly about masculine/feminine yin/yang, and requires the reader to be and to consider both silence and listening, hearing and speaking. How to Live is a brave collection that doesn’t back down from a societal lesson that, unfortunately, still needs repeating, and often.

ILLUSTRATED NON-FICTION AWARD

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    Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance

    Published by: Te Papa Press

    Edited by Stephanie Gibson
    Matariki Williams
    Puawai Cairns

    Edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams and Puawai Cairns

    From a strong pool of contenders, one book stood above the others, not only achieving excellence in writing, illustration and design, but also – crucially – tackling a vast and significant topic worthy of these urgent times. Readers are drawn into Aotearoa’s rich and raw stories from contact to now. Engaging, insightful and incredibly well-researched texts by multiple authors provide a cohesive and strong overall narrative, covering a huge breadth of our history and the themes that define us as a nation. The tactile, hand-hewn approach to design complements the huge variety of assiduously collected objects that are this book’s focus. From the obscure and ephemeral to the well-known and loved, the images allow us to be witness to — and challenge us to learn from — our shared past of resistance, dissent and activism.

GENERAL NON-FICTION AWARD

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    Dead People I Have Known

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Shayne Carter

    Shayne Carter

    From the first page, Shayne Carter‘s Dead People I Have Known invites the reader to jump right in and come along for the ride. What follows is an illuminating insight into the childhood, shaped by violence and addiction, of a boy who didn’t fit in and felt saved by music. The insider’s view of the development of the music scene in Dunedin makes a valuable contribution to the sparsely populated field of New Zealand music writing. More especially it is a fascinating look at what it means and how it feels to be a creative obsessive — pushing towards perfection despite and because of addiction, oblivion and isolation. It is rock-star writing: entertaining, revealing and incredibly heartfelt.

MitoQ Best First Book Awards

HUBERT CHURCH PRIZE FOR FICTION

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    Auē

    Published by: Mākaro Press

    Becky Manawatu

    Becky Manawatu

    Three debuts made the longlist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, not just because they were impressive first-time novels, but also because they held their own against those of writers who’ve been producing work of quality for decades. But the debut that most impressed the judges was one that handled multiple narrators, shifting time perspectives, urban and rural life, and wildly differing emotional states with enviable aplomb. Auē is a mere pounamu: raw life polished to a sheen that’s beautiful and warm but at the same time a blade with a keen edge. Auē stands alone as best first novel of the year.

JESSIE MACKAY PRIZE FOR POETRY

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    Craven

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Jane Arthur

    Jane Arthur

    The poems in Craven seduced and delighted us even as they revealed a speaker filled with uncertainty, self-loathing, futility. They did that thing that the best lyric poetry does: they showed us an emotional interior, an individual human heart (often a literal heart, a stubborn, durable, hidden muscle) by way of a patient, alert attention to the world beyond the self. This introverted speaker demands to be seen, to be heard — and she is seen and heard in these remarkable poems. Jane Arthur takes, in a phrase lifted from one of them, a “sharp, large knife” to the speaker’s observed reality: she cuts it and refashions it into something new and strange, and transports us there.

JUDITH BINNEY PRIZE FOR ILLUSTRATED NON-FICTION

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    We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa

    Published by: Massey University Press

    Chris McDowall
    Tim Denee

    Chris McDowall and Tim Denee

    This fascinating and unique visual representation of Aotearoa New Zealand reveals us to ourselves, chronicling our history and capturing the present. The authors have brought together complex and often surprising sets of big data about our natural environment, government and culture, and ourselves. And they've presented it in genuinely accessible ways, through a huge variety of fascinating visualisations. Essays by a range of authors contextualise the overall themes, offering different ways to interpret the information, and each map and graph is accompanied by a succinct, factual explanation. The immediate and easy visual appeal of this book belies the comprehensive research and well-considered representation of Aotearoa. We Are Here is relevant to us all.

E.H. MCCORMICK PRIZE FOR GENERAL NON-FICTION

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    Dead People I Have Known

    Published by: Victoria University Press

    Shayne Carter

    Shayne Carter

    Shayne Carter says, "I realised that the way to write was to write pretty much the way I talk — kind of terse with some swearing." Dead People I have Known is an illuminating insight into the childhood of a boy who didn’t fit in and who was saved by music. An honest look at the life of a key figure in New Zealand music, Carter’s memoir is refreshingly brash, reeling off the page with searing honesty, ego and obsession. Moving from lyricist to writer, Carter has produced a remarkably accomplished first book. It is rock-star writing that draws the reader in from the first page.

About the MitoQ Best First Book Awards

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

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

The Judith Binney Prize 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 Prize for General Non-Fiction is named for the late Eric McCormick, the eminent historian and biographer of Frances Hodgkins.