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Announcing the 2021 SPN Book of the Year Winners

The Small Press Network (SPN) has announced the co-winners of the 2021 SPN Network Book of the Year Award (BOTY).

The winning books, the two essay collections, are:

“Both titles feature beautiful and engaging writing, genuine and candid examinations of identity and culture, and nuanced explorations of their themes,” the judges said. “Each winner also presents experimental forms and the power of small presses to bring unique stories to the world. The winners were chosen from a shortlist of six people announced in October.

Echoes stands out for its form as something experimental and unique, unlikely to be published by larger mainstream publishers, ”Chua’s book judges said. “It’s unashamedly Sino-Australian in an industry that remains dazzling white. The use of untranslated Mandarin and Cantonese in parts of the text establishes a cultural barrier between non-Chinese readers and the author, affecting the moments of cultural otherization that remain with these readers long after the book ends.

“At the same time, these moments remind readers that we don’t have to come from the same cultural background or speak the same language to empathize and understand each other. Identity and culture are examined through a process of inquiry, comprehension and language in which the reader is invited to participate in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the text. Overall, Chua takes readers on a personal journey of discovery as she rediscovers her personal identity through family, music, clothing and place. ‘

Chua said: ‘When I learned Echoes had co-won the SPN BOTY award, I ran to tell mum and burst into tears! I thank the judges, series curator Fran Berry, my wonderful editor Camha Pham, and everyone who gave their time and a home to my little book. I hope that my essays will help broaden ideas about “South Asian literature” and encourage more multilingual writing. Small presses, literary journals and fanzines encourage creative risk-taking and are essential to a vibrant, truly inclusive and fair literary landscape. ‘

From the book of Vavilova, the judges said: ‘We speak in code explores themes of family, identity and belonging in a way that is rare among the contemporary body of writing on such topics. Vavilova keeps you at the forefront of each experience, always almost participating but never completely within an experience other than her own. The crossed identities act as the lens through which each subject in the collection is explored, bringing a fascinating perspective to the essays.

“The book encourages readers to reflect on their own position and subjectivity and on how we exist in relation to events, cultures and institutions. Vavilova’s exploration of life on the fringes extends through sexuality, migrant identity and mental health, in a book devoted to the misfit. Her voice and approach to the subject are unique and fresh with an intensity that lingers long after you put the book down. ‘

Brio Books publisher David Henley thanked the judges for recognizing the two books. “We are delighted to have released Tanya Vavilova, who is such a talented non-fiction and fiction writer,” he said. ‘We speak in code is a courageous exploration of her lived experience and we are so proud that she receives this award. ‘

This year’s SPN BOTY award was presented by author, editor and academic lecturer Alexandra Dane; author and university professor Penni Russon; editor and freelance writer, president of Editors WA and director of business development for Underground Writers Jess Gately; and the owners and founders of Amplify Bookstore Marina Sano Litchfield & Jing Xuan Teo.

The award was presented on Friday November 26 at an Instagram Live event hosted by the Wheeler Center as part of its Next Big Thing series.

Category: Local News Awards



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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson