13 May 2021
‘Knockout’ short story collection wins country’s richest writing prize
Whanganui writer Airini Beautrais has won the $57,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her book Bug Week – the first person to take out the category for a collection of short stories in more than a decade.
Beautrais is well-known as a poet, but this is her first-ever book of fiction, published by Victoria University Press. She received the prize ahead of acclaimed novelists Catherine Chidgey and Pip Adam, both previous winners, and Brannavan Gnanalingam, shortlisted for the fiction prize in 2018. The awards ceremony, emcee’d by Jack Tame, was an Auckland Writers Festival marquee event held in the Aotea Centre this evening.
The Fiction category’s convenor of judges, Kiran Dass, says Bug Week is a knockout from start to finish.
“Casting a devastating and witty eye on humanity at its most fallible and wonky, this is a tightly-wound and remarkably assured collection. Atmospheric and refined, these stories evoke a strong sense of quiet unease, slow burning rage and the absurdly comic.”
The Awards’ guest international fiction co-judge, award-winning American novelist Tommy Orange says, “I was consistently surprised by sentences, the beauty and singular language. If the book were a bug, it would be a big one, with teeth and venom, with wings and a surprising heart, possibly several, beating on every page with life."
General Non-Fiction Award
Vincent O’Sullivan, The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere A Biographical Portrait (Penguin Random House NZ).
The Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry Celebrated Christchurch
Tusiata Avia, The Savage Coloniser Book (Victoria University Press).
The Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award
Monique Fiso, Illustrated Non-Fiction for Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine (Godwit, Penguin Random House NZ).
Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a discretionary Māori Language Award
Tā Tīmoti Kāretu, Mātāmua ko te Kupu! (by Auckland University Press).
Four MitoQ Best First Book Awards were also presented at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
Each MitoQ Best First Book Award winner received $2,500 and a 12-month membership subscription to the New Zealand Society of Authors.
The Hubert Church Prize for a best first book of Fiction
Rachel Kerr, Victory Park by Mākaro Press.
The E.H. McCormick Prize for a best first work of General Non-Fiction
Madison Hamill, Specimen: Personal Essays (Victoria University Press).
The Jessie Mackay Prize for a best first book of Poetry
Jackson Nieuwland, I Am a Human Being (Compound Press).
The Judith Binney Prize for a best first work of Illustrated Non-Fiction
Monique Fiso, Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine (Godwit, Penguin Random House).
The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, MitoQ, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and the Auckland Writers Festival.
To find out more about the winners’ visit the NZ Book Awards website