Vicki Laveau-Harvie has won the $50,000 Stella Prize for her sharp, darkly funny memoir The Erratics.
The Erratics tells Laveau-Harvie’s own story of returning to her ageing, estranged parents halfway across the world and the conflict of loyalty and love that ensues.
Published for the first time in her seventies, Laveau-Harvie has already received accolades after winning the 2018 Finch Memoir Prize for The Erratics.
In its seven-year history, this is the first time a memoir has won the Stella Prize and only the second time a debut author has been honoured with the award.
In her acceptance speech, Laveau-Harvie said she was grateful for the financial freedom winning the prize will afford her.
“The Stella is a very generous prize—it is a gift of freedom to the winner. I’m going to use this gift to travel to places no one has ever heard of—places like Neche, North Dakota, in the US—to find the traces of a hidden part of my heritage,” she said.
“I hope to find the threads of the next story I will tell, and that the themes of that
story will be universal ones. This prize gives me the means to do that.”
“This prize rewards women who write truth – historical, political, and the truth of the heart and the soul: the truth of individuals, of each of us, and the truth of the world we live in.”
—#2019StellaPrize winner Vicki Laveau-Harvie pic.twitter.com/Ij1SWPgEWK
— The Stella Prize (@TheStellaPrize) April 9, 2019
Louise Swinn, Chair of the Stella Prize judging panel has praised Laveau-Harvie for delightfully surprising the judges.
“Despite the dark subject matter, this book has a smile at its core, and Laveau-Harvie shows constant wit when depicting some harrowing times. The writing throughout is of a consistently high standard and we were constantly delighted by this surprise of a book.”
Awarded for the first time in 2013, the Stella Prize has become an influential feature of the Australian literary calendar, significantly increasing sales of female authors, often raising their profiles. The significant prize money buys the winner financial independence and time to focus on their writing. This year, 12 women were named finalists in the longlist for the prize.
“We all have families and families are all nuts in some ways.”
First-time author Vicki Laveau-Harvie won the 2019 @TheStellaPrize last night for her memoir The Erratics.
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) April 9, 2019
Michelle Scott Tucker, Stella’s Executive Director remarked that the 6 books that made the shortlist refused to be categorised, a testament to the strength and diversity of writing by women in Australia.
“I am delighted to congratulate Vicki Laveau-Harvie for winning the 2019 Stella Prize with The Erratics, a memoir that is beautiful, fiercely sparkling, hard and sharp—I’m thrilled for Vicki and couldn’t be more grateful to our wonderful judges who, once again, have chosen an absolute gem.”