Now in its eighth year, the influential and a much-loved feature of the Australian literary calendar, the Stella Prize has announced the six extraordinary books by Australian women on the 2020 shortlist.
Here are exemplary storytellers new and established working across fiction, investigative journalism, memoir and short story – six powerful books by women that bring to light diverse experiences of illness, family life, friendship, domestic abuse, and ultimately the human condition. The 2020 Stella Prize shortlist is:
See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill (Black Inc.)
Investigative journalist Jess Hill puts perpetrators – and the systems that enable them – in the spotlight. See What You Made Me Do is a deep dive into the abuse so many women and children experience – abuse that is often reinforced by the justice system they trust to protect them. Critically, it shows that we can drastically reduce domestic violence – not in generations to come, but today. Combining forensic research with riveting storytelling, See What You Made Me Do radically rethinks how to confront the national crisis of fear and abuse in our homes.
Diving Into Glass by Caro Llewellyn (Penguin Random House)
Caro Llewellyn was living her dream life in her adopted home of New York, directing an international literary festival. Then one day, running in Central Park, she lost all sensation in her legs. Two days later she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. An emotionally brutal memoir of family, vulnerability and purpose, Diving into Glass is a searing, often funny portrait of the realities of disability and an intimate account of two lives filled with vigour and audacity.
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia)
Favel Parrett’s deep emotional insight and stellar literary talent shine through in this love letter to the strong women who bind families together, despite dislocation and distance. It is a tender and beautifully told story of memory, family and love. Because there is still love. No matter what.
Here Until August by Josephine Rowe (Black Inc.)
From the Catskills to the Snowy Mountains, the abandoned island outports of Newfoundland to the sprawl of an Australian metropolis, this scintillating collection from one of Australia’s most gifted writers shows us how the places we inhabit shape us in ways both remote and intimate.
The Yield by Tara June Winch (Penguin Random House)
Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin)
Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we’re forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book: a celebration of tenderness and friendship that is nothing short of a masterpiece.
This year’s Stella Prize Judges include: writer, editor and publisher Louise Swinn (chair); award-winning journalist Monica Attard; senior editor and journalist Jack Latimore; memoirist and editor Zoya Patel; and poet and educator Leni Shilton.
“Writers across the gamut of their career appear on the 2020 Stella Prize shortlist, which includes authors who are household names alongside some we are just getting acquainted with,” says Louise Swinn. “The six books on this year’s shortlist are all outward-looking, and they tell stories – of illness, family life, friendship, domestic abuse, and more – in remarkable ways.”
“If language is a tool, or a weapon, then these writers use their skills with tremendous courage. We found a lot to be hopeful about here, too – not just at the stories being told, but at the quality of the art being produced.”
The Stella Prize awards one author with a $50,000 prize, thanks to the generous support of the Wilson Foundation. This offers a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time – that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women – to focus on their writing.
Each shortlisted author will receive $2,000 in prize money, plus a three-week immersive retreat at a house in Point Addis on the Victorian coast. These Stella Grasstrees Writing Retreats are possible thanks to the vision and commitment of Trawalla Foundation, who have been major supporters of Stella from the very beginning.
Previous winners of the Stella Prize include: Carrie Tiffany, 2013 (Mateship with Birds); Clare Wright, 2014 (The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka); Emily Bitto, 2015 (The Strays); Charlotte, 2016 (The Natural Way of Things); Heather Rose, 2017 (The Museum of Modern Love); Alexis Wright, 2018 (Tracker); and Vicki Laveau-Harvie, 2019 (The Erratics).
The 2020 Stella Prize will be announced on Tuesday 14 April and features guest speaker, the Hon. Julia Gillard AC. For more information, visit: www.thestellaprize.com.au for details.
Image: The books that features in the 2020 Stella Prize Shortlist (supplied)