The Stella Prize Longlist 2019

The Stellas are one of my very favourite literary prizes here in the land of Aus, and the long list was announced during the week.

From the Stella Prize website

I’m pretty excited to see two of my favourite Aussie reads from 2018 on this list: Too Much Lip by the inimitable Melissa Lucashenko, and Eggshell Skull from newcomer (and local Brisbane lady) Bri Lee.

[Interlude – I haven’t had the opportunity to rave about Eggshell Skull here yet. I read it over the Christmas period and time got away from me. So how does now sound? Eggshell Skull is a brilliant combination of a scathing assessment of Queensland’s laws around rape and sexual assault and how these play out in a court room, and how results differ depending on where in the state that court room is, and Lee’s own decision and journey to take her case through the court process, and the ongoing effects her assault had on her. It’s a tough read, but one I would like to put into the hands of every Queenslander/Australian.]

I’ve only read one other from the longlist (which didn’t take my fancy) so I will need to get on my bike and read the others.

I was a little disappointed with the lack of diversity in this years list, but it seems like that wasn’t just me. Here’s a note from the judges (which has come from the Judges Report on the Stella Prize site.

We wished for more representations of otherness and diversity from publishers: narratives from outside Australia, from and featuring women of colour, LGBTQIA stories, Indigenous stories, more subversion, more difference.

Me too Judges, me too.

(I am not sure if there is a recording of the event anywhere, but I wish I had been able to see/hear Nayuka Gorrie’s speech, which looks like it was amazing and hard hitting judging from the excerpts on the Stella Prize’s twitter feed.)

The Australian publishing industry is stupidly white and straight. Diversity is something I try hard to support and talk about, and I’m struggling to find new releases in Australia by people who aren’t white and/or straight and/or able bodied. Media representation is bad enough, but publishers and their marketing reps need to step up and publish more diverse voices. It says a lot that I am learning more about diverse Aussie books through twitter than I am through any research I’m doing through any other Aussie publishing industry marketing or book stores.

Representation is important. Kids of all races and genders should be able to see themselves in Aussie books and media. This is so important to their development and self esteem.

So what can we do to support diversity in Australian writing and publishing I hear you ask?

Support university presses and smaller publishing houses.

The university presses will always have more diverse books available because of the nature of what they do. Also check out presses like Magabala Books , IAD Press (Indigenous publishing houses), Pantera Press and Spinifex press.

Use your local library.

I have no right to tell you what to do with your cold hard cash, but money talks. If you have cash to spend, consider spending it on diverse voices rather than the big names that everyone else is giving their cash to. Your library will definitely have those books on their shelves.

If that isn’t something you can do, look for diverse books in your local library. If they aren’t in stock you can ask your library to buy them! I’ve had a lot of success in my library picking up my suggestions, which means that not only do I get to read it, but it will be there on the shelf for someone else to pick up who may not have known it existed.

Talk about diverse books.

Word of mouth is still one of the best marketing strategies. If there is a diverse book you love, tell people about it!

Do you have a favourite diverse Aussie author/press? Please tell me about them!

Cheers,

4 comments

  1. This is so good! Thank you. I was just thinking it’s time I read some more indigenous Australian fiction, but I haven’t heard about many recently. I’ll check out the publishers you mentioned. I’m keen to read Axiomatic from the longlist.

    Liked by 1 person

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