Atmospheric and refined, Bug Week is compelling from start to finish. A tightly wound collection of short stories which explore the weird, the eerie and the mordantly funny, there’s a sense of quiet unease and slow-burning rage. A talking albatross at an open mic night, an envious sibling, a desperate ex-lover and a melancholy brothel owner are some of the characters encountered in this collection, which delves into the female experience, anger, male entitlement and restless malaise.
JANN MEDLICOTT Acorn PRIZE FOR Fiction
Bug Week & Other Stories
Nothing to See
Looking at surveillance, identity, gender and people living on the margins under the fallout of capitalism, Nothing to See follows the lives of Peggy and Greta, who are recovering alcoholics (or rather, one alcoholic who has splintered off into two). And just when you think you’ve cracked what is going on, Pip Adam turns everything in this dazzling novel inside out, leaving the reader momentarily disoriented but exhilarated.
This transcendent novel about ‘wilful blindness’ is written as a series of letters, interviews and diary entries told from four different angles — the newly-appointed camp administrator at Buchenwald labour camp Sturmbannführer Dietrich Hahn, his wife Frau Greta Hahn, Dr Lenard Weber, who has invented a machine called a Sympathetic Vitaliser which he believes can cure cancer by using a process called ‘remote sympathy’, and the collective reflections of Weimar citizens. Immersive, profound and plotted with a breathtaking dexterity, Remote Sympathy is vividly evoked.
A searing novel which examines violence, racism and toxic masculinity, Sprigs looks at the consequences of a sexual assault at a high school rugby game aftermatch, and the ripple effect of trauma that follows. Brannavan Gnanalingam deftly brings together a hefty cast of characters, skillfully orchestrating multiple voices and perspectives. Written with sensitivity, nuance and not without bursts of comic relief, Sprigs is an unflinching novel which forces us to reckon with uncomfortable truths about power and privilege in Aotearoa.
MARY AND PETER BIGGS AWARD FOR POETRY
The language of Funkhaus pumps and flows as if the collection were a great red heart. Hinemoana Baker’s poems reference Sylvia Plath, Wi Parata, aunties, and P.J. Harvey. Vacuum cleaners, dogs, and polaroids also appear in imaginative ways. The book’s shifts in subject matter, migratory metaphors and language encompass satirical political poetry, tender love lyrics and memorable street tunes. Like the emanations from the radio station of the title, these poetry messages travel; from Lake Geneva to Waitangi, Berlin to Ihumātao, Funkhaus transmits an unstaunchable array of emotions in rhythmic form.
Magnolia 木蘭 grows and blooms through mother-daughter conversations across generations, cultures and languages. Seeking to understand her place in the world, a young writer journeys from New Zealand to China, England to Malaysia, from film to contemporary art, and from English to Mandarin, Hakka and Māori. Subtly but insistently exploding prejudices and expectations, Nina Mingya Powles presents a poetic mosaic that more than lives up to the brilliant elegance, or mingya 明雅, promised by her Chinese name.
Mohamed Hassan shapes the emotional outpouring of performance and the fast footwork of slam into perfectly timed poems of political commentary, personal awareness and metaphorical virtuosity. Refusing the easy refrains of nationalism, National Anthem syncopates family history, displacement and personal trauma with a devastating commentary on racism’s most ugly manifestations. It mixes compromise and commitment, Egypt and Aotearoa, English and Arabic, laughter and anger, skepticism and love to sound out a new beat for poetry in this country and beyond.
The Savage Coloniser Book
Tusiata Avia turns her vociferous intellect and satirical vehemence to recording recent events and finds a base space for poetry in which to pick up the pieces and keep on moving. While furiously rejecting the destructive legacies of colonialism, her poems acknowledge that contradictions live at the centre of contemporary commitments. From garrulously hilarious observations to expressions of profound grief, the collection activates her insights, reforming our consciousness of what constitutes poetry as she goes.
BOOKSELLERS AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND AWARD FOR ILLUSTRATED NON-FICTION
An Exquisite Legacy: The Life and Work of New Zealand Naturalist G.V. Hudson
George Hudson’s grandson has produced a glorious tribute to his grandfather, not only one of New Zealand’s greatest naturalists but also an artist of dazzling skill. In reproducing so many of these paintings for the first time, the author is scientifically and artistically scrupulous, with detailed captions and superb production values. Crucially, this is also an enlightening and lovingly written biography — we are drawn inside the world of an insect-mad fellow who became a significant figure in our natural history landscape.
Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine
Hiakai is no ordinary cookbook but rather one which, unusually, lets us see our natural environment with fresh eyes. Coming from award-winning chef Monique Fiso, it is the result of years of labour and research into Māori cuisine and all it represents. Passionately written, well edited, beautifully illustrated and presented, Hiakai weaves tikanga, history, cultivation, foraging and hunting into an influential classic of the kitchen, and also of cultural history; in these recipes Fiso shows the range of indigenous ingredients with sophisticated flair.
Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists
This elegantly produced collection of photographs, the bulk of which have never been published before, is exquisitely designed and edited — and the image reproduction is exceptional. The accompanying text breathes life into these individuals and, thanks to the layout, Marti Friedlander’s uncanny ability to capture the spirit of her subjects shines through. With images of over 110 artists, photographed over several decades, this important volume is a wonderful cultural account of mid-to-late twentieth century creative life in New Zealand.
Nature — Stilled
This sumptuously beautiful book presents a wondrous selection of specimens from Te Papa’s natural history collection. Brilliantly photographed and produced, it highlights not just the breadth of these collections but also the knowledge and passion of those who care for them. Jane Ussher is one of Aotearoa’s most accomplished photographers and she has clearly approached this project with great respect and enthusiasm for the exhibits which represent our vanishing natural world, and have never been more worthy of our attention.
GENERAL NON-FICTION AWARD
Specimen: Personal Essays
This compulsively readable collection charts the inner life of someone who often feels at odds with those around her. Madison Hamill traces her sense of difference in fresh, razor-sharp prose, via encounters ranging from a bullying primary school teacher, whom she quietly bests, to the clients at an under-funded drug clinic in Cape Town, for whom she can do nothing. It is as memorable for her unblinking view of herself as it is for her compassionate awareness of others’ struggles.
Te Hāhi Mihinare: The Māori Anglican Church
This is both a history of an institution and a corrective for ‘fatal impact’ narratives in which Māori are presented as the passive victims of colonisation; Hirini Kaa shows how iwi adapted the new religion to make it their own. His emblematic example is the haka ‘Te Pārekereke’, which celebrates the arrival of Christianity and the gift of seedling kumara — both of which promise a new start. Performing the haka acknowledges the renegotiation of mātauranga through Christianity, and embraces both continuity and change.
The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere A Biographical Portrait
In this exemplary instance of the biographer’s art, Vincent O’Sullivan transcends what in other hands may have proved an insurmountable obstacle — writing about an artist without illustrations of the work — by producing a life story that ‘feeds back’ into the imagery, deepening and enriching all subsequent encounters. He has given us a sensitive, meticulously researched portrait of one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important modern artists.
This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir
The question at the heart of educationalist Alison Jones’s multi-stranded memoir is what it means, for her, to be Pākehā: a non-Māori New Zealander who belongs nowhere else. It is a coming-of-age story, a family story, and a story of place. It also charts a personal journey at a time of intellectual foment, when making a difference meant protesting. Above all, it’s about friendship, and about learning how to listen in order to work collaboratively towards positive change.