Asher Award Shortlist 2015

The ASA is delighted to announce that internationally recognised historian Joan Beaumont has won the Asher Award for her book Broken Nation, published by Allen & Unwin.

The ASA received 47 eligible applications from a range of genres, including children’s literature and performance writing. Assessors Tegan Bennett Daylight, Anthony Birch and Charlotte Wood noted that the quality and diversity of submissions made selecting a winner extremely difficult.

The following titles were shortlisted:

Warrior by Libby Connors (Allen & Unwin 2015)
ANZAC: The Unauthorised Biography by Carolyn Holbrook (New South Publishing 2014)
The Golden Age by Joan London (Vintage 2014)
Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay (Black Inc 2013)
My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford (Working Title Press 2015)

The Asher Literary Award is offered biennially to a female author whose work carries an anti-war theme. Valued at $12,000, the Award was managed this year by the ASA, on behalf of the Australia Council for the Arts. The Award was made possible by a bequest from author Helen Waltraud Rosalie Asher, a post-WWII refugee from Germany.

Judge's comments

Broken Nation by Joan Beaumont (Allen & Unwin)

Joan Beaumont’s Broken Nation combines authority with a richly human approach – telling the story of Australian participation in and response to the Great War in prose that is measured but full of meaning and energy. Beaumont’s ability to move between the intimacy of battle and grief and the grand historical narrative of Australian soldiers at war is masterful. Bringing together the scale and ambition of this scholarship with the elegance, immediacy and emotional power of her writing is no small achievement but Beaumont makes it seem effortless.

The Golden Age by Joan London (Vintage)

Joan London’s novel about a thirteen-year-old boy in a convalescent home for polio sufferers shows the generational effects of war on both Australians and Europeans. This is fiction at its finest; beautifully observed, finely wrought and deeply humane. Frank Gold is a Jewish refugee from Hungary and Elsa Briggs the oldest child of a working class family in Perth. Their meeting in The Golden Age in 1954 sets the scene for this remarkable novel about the ripple effects war, illness and growing up.

ANZAC: The Unauthorised Biography by Carolyn Holbrook (UNSW Press)

This original, thought-provoking book engages in a lively conversation with the ANZAC myth. Tracing its evolution from 1915 to the present day, Holbrook’s fine account forensically examines the nationalist legend of ANZAC through the lenses of political, personal and literary history. Through interviews and extensive research, Holbrook shows the way the myth is positioned in our national narrative. Convincing, original and energetically written, this book initiates a new dialogue with our most enduring national story.

My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford (Working Title Press)

My Gallipoli is a beautifully written and illustrated children’s book that tells the story of Gallipoli through a number of perspectives, from a hospital ship nurse on nightshift with the wounded to a young driver in the Mule Corps of the Turkish army. The prose is clear, thoughtful and informative and the illustrations evocative. It is easy to see this book working both in the classroom and at home. It brings diversity and a new complexity to our understanding of the story of Gallipoli without moralising or judging.

Warrior by Libby Connors (Allen & Unwin)

This book excels in its meticulously researched history of the engagement between Aboriginal people and European invaders in early 19th century Queensland. Telling the story of Dundalli, a warrior of the Dalla people, and his resistance against white incursion onto his people’s land, this intricate and illuminating book restores Indigenous history to the centre of our national narrative.

Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay (Black Inc)

Laura Jean McKay’s collection of stories is remarkable in its range of voices and the experiences it represents. Her Cambodian and Australian characters are singers, factory workers, tourists, aid workers and waitresses – together they present a kaleidoscope of Cambodian life from the era of the Khmer Rouge to the present day. McKay’s prose is lucid but artful and each story takes the reader to unexpected places.

The Asher Literary has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

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