Books on gender, politics, culture make 2020 Stella Prize longlist

Books on gender, politics, culture make 2020 Stella Prize longlist

Some of The Stella Prize 2020 longlisted authors. Image credit: Connor Tomas O’Brien.

Gender, politics and culture are some of the prominent themes across the diverse books written by Australian women on the longlist for The Stella Prize 2020.

This year, twelve writers have made the longlist for The Stella Prize, a $50,000 prize awarded annually to an Australian woman for a work of literature in any genre.

Seven works of fiction, including a young adult novel, and five non-fiction works made the longlist, which was announced in Melbourne on Thursday, February 6.

The longlisted authors include Joey Bui, Gay’wu Group of Women, Jess Hill, Yumna Kassab, Caro Llewellyn, Favel Parrett, Mandy Ord, Josephine Rowe, Vikki Wakefield, Tara June Winch, Charlotte Wood, and Sally Young.

On the longlist is an homage to Indigenous culture and storytelling. Songspirals by Gay’wu Group of Women is a collection of stories told in ‘spirals’ that invite the reader to explore themes of family, land and culture, and the responsibilities of the women.

Vikki Wakefield’s young adult novel This is How We Change the Ending tackles the urgent issues for the youth of today in a way that is relatable – it is an unflinching book that brims with anxieties and attitude, raw angst, and gentle refuge.

Charlotte Wood’s book The Weekend follows the lives of four women in the third act of their lives – post-children, post-marriage, post-menopause and all its trimmings in a funny, honest and thoughtful way. Notably, Wood won the 2016 Stella Prize for her novel The Natural Way of Things.

Executive Director of The Stella Prize, Jaclyn Booton - credit Connor Tomas O’Brien

Executive Director of The Stella Prize, Jaclyn Booton. Image credit: Connor Tomas O’Brien.

Longlist shows ‘how essential the voices of women are’

Executive Director of The Stella Prize, Jaclyn Booton, said the longlist was “a testament to the quality and diversity of women’s writing in Australia”.

“During a fire season that has destroyed much of our country and devastated so many communities, it gives me great joy to see the humanity, connectedness and energy in the outstanding books on this year’s list,” Ms Booton said.

“These remarkable works — both fiction and non-fiction, from Australian authors at all stages of their careers, and backed by our vibrant publishing sector — demonstrate how essential the voices and perspectives of women are. It’s all here: family, gender, politics, history, place, language, culture and community — making the longlist, as a whole, both decidedly local and inherently global.”

Stella Prize co-founder and chair of the judging panel Louise Swinn said this year’s longlist was varied and included a graphic novel, a young adult novel, Aboriginal songspirals, personal memoir, history, short stories and novels.

“All of the writers we longlisted are finding innovative ways to communicate their stories, and there is a very real sense when opening these books that an honest dialogue is being entered into,” Ms Swinn said.

“These authors are craftspeople serious about their intention and dedicated to the art. We were educated and entertained by these twelve longlisted books and we recommend them heartily.”

The Stella Prize, which has been running since 2013, is known for celebrating and promoting the excellence of Australian women’s writing, and the award has often significantly boosted sales and raised the profiles of individual women.

The company is also one that champions cultural change. Through its various programs, The Stella Prize continues to advocate for the representation of women in Australian culture and society and address gender imbalance more widely.

The 2020 Stella Prize attracted more than 150 strong entries. The judges for this year’s award are publisher, writer and reviewer 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.

Each of the longlisted authors receive $1000 in prize money, thanks to support from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

The Stella Prize shortlist will be announced on March 6 and the winner, who receives $50,000 in prize money, will be announced on April 8.

The Stella Prize 2020 longlist books

The Stella Prize 2020 longlist:

  • Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui (Text Publishing)
  • Songspirals by Gay’wu Group of Women (Allen & Unwin)
  • See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill (Black Inc.)
  • The House of Youssef by Yumna Kassab (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Diving into Glass by Caro Llewellyn (Penguin Random House)
  • When One Person Dies the Whole World is Over by Mandy Ord (Brow Books)
  • There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia)
  • Here Until August by Josephine Rowe (Black Inc)
  • This is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing)
  • The Yield by Tara June Winch (Penguin Random House)
  • The Weekend by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin)
  • Paper Emperors by Sally Young (NewSouth Publishing)
Sharon Green, editor

Sharon Green

Sharon Green is the founding editor of SHE DEFINED.

An experienced journalist and editor, Sharon has worked in mainstream media in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Forever in search of a publication that confronted the real issues faced by modern women, Sharon decided to create her own.