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Miles Franklin Award 2019 Winner announced!

July 31, 2019

Melissa Lucashenko, Too Much LipWell, good news for me (because it’s all about me of course!) Not only had I read more of the longlist and the shortlist than is my usual achievement, but one of those books is the winner – and a wonderful winner it is too, Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip (my review)!

Really, as much as I liked the other contenders I’d read, I did hope this would win – because it is truth-telling of the most honest sort. Indeed, Lucashenko has said that she expected backlash (which didn’t come) from indigenous communities for her no-holds barred story about a rather dysfunctional indigenous family in which violence and substance abuse, in particular, is no stranger.  Lucashenko, does, of course, underpin this squarely with references to/evocation of the causes, that is, the intergenerational trauma indigenous people have experienced after two centuries of dispossession (and all the policies and practices that have ensued to deny them equality, dignity, and thus the health and security that we all deserve as citizens of this country.)

But, in addition to this honest, real story about contemporary indigenous lives and culture – about the challenge of marrying traditional beliefs and values with contemporary life – is the fact that it’s a rip-roaring tale. Humorous, page-turning, with colourful, individuated characters. If you haven’t read it yet, you surely will now!?

Jason Steger, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, says

It’s not surprising that Melissa Lucashenko says Too Much Lip was her most difficult book to write. After all, it deals with physical and substance abuse, violence, marginalisation, displacement and dispossession, racism and incarceration within the experience of one Indigenous family.

He quotes the judges as saying that she “weaves a (sometimes) fabulous tale with the very real politics of cultural survival to offer a story of hope and redemption for all Australians”. Exactly!

I apologise for the delayed announcement – I was at reading group last night, and was distracted by our exciting discussions!

But, woo hoo! This is an inspired and inspiring choice! Well done judges, I say.

What do you think?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2019 10:58 am

    Absolutely in accord with your reading/assessment. What a voice ML is – and still so young – so much yet to say!

    • July 31, 2019 11:03 am

      Thanks Jim … yes, a great voice. I’ve read a short story, and some non-fiction by her, and heard her speak, but this is the first novel I’ve read by her. She seems to be the whole package – articulate, passionate, humane – doesn’t she?

  2. July 31, 2019 11:20 am

    Yeah but… I wish Jason Steger hadn’t written that. It’s true, of course, and it’s important that it’s true, but I suspect that there would be readers who’d take one look at his list of ‘issues’ and think, no, I learned all that at school (even if they didn’t really) and I’d rather read something else. That summary makes it sound too much like all those memoirs we read in previous years until we just couldn’t bear the sadness of reading another one.
    But if people hear what you (and I) have said, about it being a rip-roaring tale, that’s it’s often laugh-out-loud funny, that its characters are unforgettable and they poke fun at themselves, and that (unlike Alexis Wright) it’s easy to read, the book will get the readers it deserves. And then along the way, they will learn about the issues…
    PS I think you’ve chopped off the end of your sentence about ‘the first novel’. It’s not her first novel: she wrote Steam Pigs and some others I can’t remember the names of (maybe YA?) and then Mullumbimby, and I know you know that, so maybe you meant to write that Too Much Lip is the first novel by her that you’ve read?

    • July 31, 2019 12:22 pm

      Thanks Lisa, you’re right, I meant the first of hers I’ve read. I’ve fixed it.

      I take your point re Steger’s comment. It’s worth saying, though – I think it’s important to say that she does this – but perhaps it might be better not as the lead paragraph, for the reasons you give so eloquently.

  3. Sara Dowse permalink
    July 31, 2019 12:09 pm

    A wonderful choice, in my opinion. Apart from everything everyone else has said, there is what she does with the language. It is so believable and musical and distinctive, yet nothing is made of it. It’s not there to attract attention but to usher us painlessly into her novel’s world. Haven’t read the others on the shortlist or longlist – there are so many – but on the strength of what she gave me as a reader, Lucashenko certainly deserves the prize.

    • July 31, 2019 12:12 pm

      Well said Sara. You are right about the language. It’s so readable, so easy, and yet feels fresh.

  4. July 31, 2019 12:57 pm

    Yes, well done Melissa, and well done judges.

  5. July 31, 2019 2:25 pm

    I’m so thrilled this book won, largely for the reasons put forward by Lisa. It’s such a readable, rip-roaring tale that it should get a wide readership, who may then become more more aware of the important issues Lucashenko addresses.

    • July 31, 2019 7:13 pm

      Yes, exactly Michelle – literature is an important part of the truth telling process I think.

  6. July 31, 2019 3:26 pm

    The Sydney Morning Herald quote would definitely give me an impression this could be a hard issue based novel. Thankfully we have you and Lisa to help provide a different perspective. I’d be interested to read this but it’s available only in Kindle format in the UK at the moment.

    • July 31, 2019 7:14 pm

      Hopefully after this, Karen, its availability will be extended around the world!

      • August 1, 2019 2:27 am

        I’m thinking that the prize could well persuade some publisher over here that it’s well worth taking on

        • August 1, 2019 7:51 am

          Yes, that’s the hope isn’t it. I hope they don’t see it as “too” Australian!

  7. July 31, 2019 10:22 pm

    It’s so much fun when one of the books you read and liked shows up on a prize list and even more fun when it wins! Congratulations! 😉

  8. Bill Veris permalink
    July 31, 2019 11:42 pm

    Thought it was quite racist to refer to the Australian colonizers as “savage.” You said it was on radio today. Why is racism acceptable towards White people? Why is White culture and history only looked at in a negative way?

    • August 3, 2019 10:45 am

      Thanks for your comment Bill. I don’t think racism is acceptable to anyone.

      What I meant was on the radio today was hearing the announcement of the winner. I’m sorry if this was ambiguous.

  9. Neil@kalleroo permalink
    August 1, 2019 7:42 pm

    A great read, I was sorry when the story finished. I guess now I’ll have to chase up the rest of the short list, to see how good they are.

    • August 2, 2019 7:44 am

      Me too Neil… The short-list I mean, as I’ve only read one. Would you recommend Too much lip to your trading group?

      • Neil@kalleroo permalink
        August 2, 2019 10:00 am

        It’s on my short list (LOL). Though I’m very tempted, I think I’ll stick with Spinning Silk, because it is different from the other books we’ve read – we haven’t had any fantasy yet, and I want to rattle a few cages. But my selection is announced in September, for January (we announce two months ahead, but November is our annual dinner, and December is a holiday), so I might put Too Much Lip on my holiday reading list, which is suggested extras for them that run out of good reading.

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