The six books shortlisted for the 2022 Stella Prize

The six books shortlisted for the 2022 Stella Prize

Stella

This year’s Stella Prize shortlist consists of six experimental, genre-bending titles that confront issues of justice, inclusion, and truth-telling.

The shortlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

TAKE CARE by Eunice Andrada (Giramondo Publishing)
Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen (University of Queensland Press)
No Document by Anwen Crawford (Giramondo Publishing)
Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down (Text Publishing)
Stone Fruit by Lee Lai (Fantagraphics)
Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki (Magabala Books)

For authors Araluen, Lai and Shiosaki, their shortlisted books are also their first.

The Stella Prize is the major literary award for Australian women and non-binary writers worth $50,000, and this year, it marks its tenth year.  

The shortlisted titles were selected from a total of 220 entries. The judges include Melissa Lucashenko (Chair), Sisonke Msimang, Cate Kennedy, , Oliver Reeson and Declan Fry. 

The titles are “big on emerging voices writing in unconventional ways,” according to Chair of the 2022 Stella Prize judging panel, Melissa Lucashenko.

They cover various “regions, positions, and literary forms that transcend the mainstream.”

“These authors are writing back, insisting that ‘other’ lives – First Nations lives, poor women’s lives, queer lives, and Filipina lives – matter on the page just as they do in everyday affairs.”

“Although the shortlisted authors vary widely in location, gender, and culture, they all share two things.”

Lucashenko praised the way the shortlisted authors “paid attention to what is happening around them, and interrogating that experience.”

“The authors have produced powerfully beautiful literature, sacrificing no art in their unflinching focus on justice, inclusion, and truth-telling.”

Executive Director of the Stella, Jaclyn Booton, called the titles “distinctly bold and compelling.” 

In their report, the judges called Filipina-Australian poet Eunice Andrada a “master of final lines” whose collection of poetry, her second, “adroitly combines the personal, the political, and the geopolitical, narrated by a voice that is at once hip, witty, and deeply serious.”

“Andrada has the imaginative ability to move between the memories of poet-narrators, historical asides, reflections on the nature of race and feminism in Australia, and questions of colonisation both locally and in the Phillipines.”

“Formally remarkable, linguistically memorable, and often surprising, TAKE CARE is a collection that understands the ways in which “There are things we must kill / so we can live to celebrate.”

Andrada’s poetry was exhibited in the Museum of Sydney for A Thousand Words, and the exhibition is currently touring Sydney Living Museums. Her previous works won the Fair Australia Prize in 2018 and Maningning Miclat Poetry Award in 2021.

Evelyn Araluen’s debut collection of poems “arrests key icons of mainstream Australian culture and turns them inside out, with malice aforethought,” according to the judges.

Calling the collection “breathtaking”, Araluen was praised for her “brilliance [that] sizzles when she goes on the attack against the kitsch and the cuddly: against Australia’s fantasy of its own racial and environmental innocence.”

“Acerbic, witty, and with no reverence at all for the colony, Araluen remembers those dispossessed and voiceless, just as she predicts a hard- won future for her children.”

Sydney-based writer, critic and visual artist, Anwen Crawford, who has published for notable magazines including The New Yorker and The Monthly, was praised for her shortlisted book No Document, with judges calling it “complex, deeply thought”.

The longform poetic essay “considers the ways we might use an experience of grief to continue living, creating, and reimagining the world we live in with greater compassion and honour.”

Last October, Anwen spoke to one of the judges, Declan Fry, describing her book as a slow-brining idea inspired by a trip to the Guggenheim in New York City.

“The book is an object lesson in what it means to follow your instinct,” Anwen said. “It’s an elegy for collaborative friendship and collaborative partnership.”

The judges said the book “implores us to harness” a “desire for meaningful change.”

Jennifer Down’s Bodies of Light, a “daring and compelling novel”, tells the story of Maggie Sullivan, a “woman who has experienced a great deal of trauma” set in Melbourne.


“Down shows restraint in detailing the circumstances of her protagonist Maggie Sullivan’s history — employing a language that moves between forensic accounting and a more lyrical, authorial register Down’s portrayal of Maggie’s many joys and pains evinces an impressive degree of verisimilitude and sensitivity,” the judges said. 

Lee Lai’s Stone Fruit, Lai’s first graphic novel, “beautifully reflects a tender domesticity that is affecting and atmospheric,” the judges said.

“A work that is honest, unassuming, and powerfully told,” Stone Fruit contains “spare, perfectly articulated dialogue,” while telling the story of a queer couple, as they “heal these past hurts in order to show up better for each other as a couple.” 

Finally, Noongar and Yawuru writer, Elfie Shiosaki wrote her book, Homecoming as an “ode to the persistence of Noongar people in the face of colonisation and its afterlives,” according to the judges. 

“With an extraordinarily light touch on the page, Shiosaki moves beyond authorship, occupying, instead, the liminal space of daughter, caretaker, and choirmaster to a chorus of voices.”

Shiosaki, who lectures on Indigenous Rights, Policy and Governance at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia, was praised for her “poetic and narrative genius.”

Homecoming is a gift to the nation, one that works its magic with a quiet grace and an unstinting clarity.”

In previous years, shortlisted authors received $2000. This year, the Trawalla Foundation have funded the prize, raising the prize money to $4000 for each shortlisted author. 

Carol Schwartz AO, Chair of the Trawalla Foundation said her foundation has been a longstanding supporter of Stella “…because it’s critical to proactively foster inclusive and equal representation in Australian literature.”

“Well done to the amazing group of women and non-binary writers being celebrated in the 2022 shortlist, and thank you to everyone in the Stella community for supporting and lifting up new and diverse voices,” Schwartz said in a statement.

Past Stella Prize winners have included Evie Wyld, Jess Hill, Vicki Laveau-Harvie and Charlotte Wood. 

The winner of this year’s prize will be announced on Thursday 28 April.

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