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‘Unwavering’ debut written ‘for something to do’ during lockdown wins top book prize | Australian books

First Nations writers and women authors dominated the 2022 Australian Book Industry Association (Abia) annual awards, with a debut novel by one of the country’s most promising young writers taking top honors.

Love & Virtue by Diana Reid won Abia Book of the Year and Literary Fiction Book of the Year at a ceremony in Sydney on Thursday night. The judges hailed the novel as “a dark and funny yet unwavering insight into early adulthood”. In her review for Guardian Australia, Zoya Patel praised Love & Virtue as “a multi-layered page-turner about power, unrequited love and campus rape culture, wrapped in a coming-of-age narrative. adulthood”.

Reid’s debut novel was written in response to the Covid-19 lockdown in 2021. It has previously won the MUD Literary Award and been shortlisted for Indie Book Awards and Booksellers’ Choice Awards.

Receiving his award on Thursday evening, Reid said, “It was the craziest trip of this Word document to my desk, which I was a bit embarrassed about.”

Love & Virtue was one of the first books published by independent newcomer Ultimo Press, created during the Covid lockdown in 2020. “When they bought my book, they hadn’t published anything yet,” Reid said in his speech. “They were just getting started, and it was the most amazing privilege to be such a formative part of their journey.”

In a interview with Kate Prendergast last year, Reid said the pandemic derailed her plans to take on the musical she co-wrote and produced – 1984! Musical comedy ! – at the Edinburgh Fringe. Having just graduated from the University of Sydney, she was without a job or income.

“If it hadn’t been for Covid, I might never have picked it up,” she said. “I really didn’t expect it to be released. I was just writing it for something to do. I think there’s a kind of freedom that comes from not expecting anyone to ever read it.

The Abias are judged by over 250 members of the book industry and recognize success in writing, publishing and selling Australian books.

Former AFL legend Adam Goodes has been named co-winner of the Children’s Picture Book of the Year category, for Somebody’s Land: Welcome to Our Country, co-written with Ellie Laing and illustrated by David Hardy .

Along with Goodes, Bundjalung writer Evelyn Araluen and her collection of poetry Dropbear won the Small Publishers Adult Book of the Year award. And former NSW Australian Youngster of the Year and Kamilaroi man Corey Tutt won book of the year for readers aged 7-12 with First Scientists: Deadly Inventions and Innovations from Australia’s First Peoples .

Women writers dominated the major categories, with Jacqueline Bublitz’s Before You Knew My Name winning General Fiction Book of the Year, while financial podcaster Victoria Devine won General Non-Fiction Book of the Year for She’s on the Money.

Amani Haydar has been named New Writer of the Year for The Mother Wound, her harrowing exploration of her father’s murder of her mother.

In children’s books, Lynette Noni won the 13+ category for The Prison Healer, while Nova Weetman won the Small Publishers Children’s Book of the Year award for The Edge of Thirteen.

Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson