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Monday musings on Australian literature: MUBA 2013

November 18, 2013

Last year I reported on the inaugural MUBA – Most Under-rated Book Award. I hoped that it would continue, because it brings to our attention good books that somehow slide under the radar, mostly because their authors are less known and/or their publishers are small.

In 2012, I had read one of the four short-listed books, Irma Gold’s Two steps forward (my review), but it didn’t, unfortunately, win. This year again, I had read one of the four short-listed books, Merlinda BobisFish-hair woman (my review). But, before I announce the winner, here is the shortlist:

  • Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-hair woman (Spinifex Press)
  • Ginger Briggs’ Staunch  (Affirm Press, which published Irma Gold’s book)
  • Annabel Smith’s Whiskey Charlie Foxtrot (Fremantle Press)
  • Anna Solding’s The hum of concrete  (MidnightSun Publishing)

The judges for this year, according to its sponsor SPUNC, included book reviewer/writer Stephanie Campisi, bookseller/poet Ben Walter, and writer/bibliotherapist, Estelle Tang. SPUNC says of the shortlist that:

The shortlisted writers represent four of the original and worthy voices to be published by independent Australian publishers in the 2012 calendar year. These books show excellence in their genre and demonstrate quality of writing, editorial integrity, and production. They have been overlooked for other prizes and have not generated the sales they deserve for any number of reasons other than the great quality of the products.

And the winner is – ta da – Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-hair woman. As I said, I haven’t read the others though I do have Annabel Smith in my reading sights. However, I was highly impressed by Fish-hair woman, which is a challenging but rewarding read, and so am thrilled for her. It’s a timely win too as Merlinda Bobis is a Filippine-Australian. As Spinifex Press director Dr Renate Klein said in their Press Release on the award:

At this time when the Philippines is experiencing a humanitarian disaster on an epic scale, I’m pleased that a kernel of something positive has happened this week. Merlinda is a Philippine Australian writer who has shown how much she cares for the Philippines and its people, and I know this award means so much to her.

It is fantastic, but not surprising, that Fish-Hair woman captured the judges’ attention; it deserves a much wider audience, and this award will definitely assist in attracting more readers to the book.

So, huge congratulations to Bobis and Spinifex – and let’s hope it results in more sales.

Have you read any books in the last year or so that you believe are under-rated? Do let us know in the comments and give them a plug!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Irma Gold permalink
    November 18, 2013 6:57 pm

    I have only read Anna Solding’s book so far (which I thoroughly enjoyed) but Annabel Smith’s is next in my To Read Pile.

    I think you might be interested in the conversation I’ve been having on the MUBA name with Annabel and Kirsten Krauth over at her blog where she’s been doing a series of interviews with writing mothers: http://wildcolonialgirl.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/writing-mothers-annabel-smith/

  2. November 19, 2013 5:20 am

    It frustrates me that these are all women. I mean, on the one hand, yay for recognition as being more deserving of recognition, but it’s frustrating that the authors who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve are more often than not the ones with uteruses. (Uteri?)

    • November 19, 2013 8:12 am

      I noticed that too … But then remembered that all the Miles a Franklin nominees were women this year too.

  3. November 20, 2013 5:52 am

    What a nice idea for an award. I hope it helps bring all the finalist’s works to better recognition.

  4. November 20, 2013 1:46 pm

    Is this only an Australian award? I think we need this kind of recognition in N. Am. You’re so right, the quality of a piece of literary work doesn’t depend on popularity… often pop. comes as a result of marketing. As in movies, a bulk of the budget is for marketing. So if you don’t have Harvey Weinstein as your distributor, your chances for any awards is much slimmer.

    • November 20, 2013 3:09 pm

      Yes, Arti, it’s only Australian and this is the second year they’ve run it. It’s true of all the arts isn’t it – music too, etc – that marketing and distribution have a big say in what the majority of us get to see and know is out there.

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