Once again I am devoting my last Monday Musings of the year to the Australian Women Writers Challenge*. Last year in my opening paragraph, I wrote that I loved the sound of 2020 – and I wished you all a wonderful year to come in whatever form you would like that to take. My, oh my, little did we expect what was going to eventuate (which for me included a personal loss in addition to the impacts of the pandemic and other catastrophes). I no longer like the sound of 2020, and fervently hope 2021 turns out much better for us all. And so, may you all have a positive and fulfilling 2021.
Now, the challenge … it has continued to go very well. The full database now contains reviews for nearly 7,000 books across all forms and genres, from all periods, of Australian women’s writing. This means that the number of books reviewed on our database increased in 2020 by 900 books, which is about the same number added as last year, or just under 15%.
My personal round-up for the year
This year, for obvious reasons, was not my best Challenge year. I posted only 26 reviews relevant to the Challenge over the year, about the same as last year which was also a strange year (but differently). I feel disappointed about all this, but such is life. Anyhow, here they are, with links to my reviews:
- Thea Astley, An item from the late news (classic)
- Shokoofeh Azar, The enlightenment of the greengage tree (contemporary fiction, translated)
- Carmel Bird, Field of poppies (contemporary fiction)
- Madelaine Dickie, Red can origami (contemporary fiction)
- Anna Goldsworthy, Melting moments (historical/contemporary fiction)
- Julie Janson, Benevolence (Indigenous Australian historical fiction)
- Gay Lynch, Unsettled (historical fiction)
- Favel Parrett, There was still love (historical fiction)
- Heather Rose, Bruny (contemporary fiction)
- Angela Thirkell, Trooper to the Southern Cross (classic)
- Julie Thorndyke, Mrs Rickaby’s lullaby (contemporary fiction)
- Tara June Winch, The yield (Indigenous Australian historical/contemporary fiction)
- Charlotte Wood, The weekend (contemporary fiction)
- David Carlin and Francesca Rendle-Short (eds), The near and the far: More stories from the Asia-Pacific region, Vol. 2
- Carol Lefevre, Murmurations
- Emily Paull, Well-behaved women
- Helen Garner, Yellow notebook: Diaries, Volume 1, 1978-1987
- Ashley Hay (ed.), Griffith Review, 68: Getting on
- Julia Baird, Phosphorescence (memoir/philosophical/self-help)
- Carolyn Collins and Roy Eccleston, Trailblazers: 100 inspiring South Australian women (biography)
- Desley Deacon, Judith Anderson: Australian star, First Lady of the American stage (biography)
- Anna Goldsworthy, Piano lessons (memoir)
- Chloe Hooper, The arsonist: A mind on fire (non-fiction/true crime)
- Sue Lovegrove and Adrienne Eberhard, The voice of water (art/poetry)
- Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland, The drums go bang! (classic memoir)
- Heidi Sze, Nurturing your new life (parenthood self-help/cookbook)
This year, fiction (including short stories) represented around 61% of my AWW challenge reading, which is a little more than last year and a bit closer to my preferred ratio. I read three Classics. Two were novels and one a memoir, and they were read for Bill’s (The Australian Legend) Gen 3 week and Lisa’s (ANZLitLovers) Thea Astley week. Thanks to Bill and Lisa for the impetus to read these books, because they added a special depth ! In terms of that problematic word “diversity”, I read two novels by Indigenous Australian women, and one translated novel by an Iranian-born Australian writer.
My non-fiction reading was eclectic, featuring biography and memoir of course, a work of creative or narrative nonfiction, a beautiful collaboration between an artist and a poet, and, unusually for me, also two books that could be seen to be in the self-help vein.
If you’d like to know more about the Challenge, check it out here. We are also on Facebook, Twitter (@auswomenwriters), and GoodReads. Do consider joining us. All readers are welcome.
Finally, as always, a big thanks again to Theresa, Elizabeth and the rest of the team. I (still) love being part of this challenge, partly because equating with my reading goals it is not really a challenge, and also because I enjoy working with the people involved. See you in 2021.
And so, 2021
The 2021 sign up form is ready, so this is also my Sign Up post for next year. As always, I’m nominating myself for the Franklin level, which is to read 10 books by Australian women and post reviews for at least 6 of those. I expect, of course, to exceed this.
Do you plan to sign up?
* This challenge was instigated by Elizabeth Lhuede in 2012 in response to concerns in Australian literary circles about the lack of recognition for women writers. I have been one of the challenge’s volunteers since 2013. Theresa Smith (of Theresa Smith writes) now oversees the day-to-day management of the blog, but Elizabeth is still an active presence.
27 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020”
I’ve read most of your fiction titles, but where we part company is in non-fiction where — apart from The Arsonist and Piano Lessons, your tastes diverge from mine. (I do have Getting On on the TBR but LOL I haven’t got on and read it yet!)
Have you chosen the books for your reading group yet?
There’s so much non-fiction out there, Lisa, isn’t there, but I wouldn’t say this year’s list closely matches my taste (or, should I say, reflect what I would choose for myself ) as most of the titles are review copies, gifts and reading group picks. In fact the only ones I chose myself were the two you read, and the Park-Niland for Bill’s Gen 3 week. However, I did enjoy the other books I read, so there’s something to be said for others choosing for you!
Oh yes, we have chosen the first six for next year. I’ll post on them, soon. It’s more diverse than last year’s!
That reminds me, I must tidy up my review of Coonardoo for Gen 3…
You have some time! He’s running it a week later I think this year than last.
I’m glad you still love being a part of the challenge! Let’s hope that doesn’t change anytime soon! Cheers to 2021, a better year (no pressure there!)
Thanks Theresa. Yes, let’s hope for all of us. We need a less fraught year don’t we?
That would certainly be welcome!
I’m already signed up for next year!
I completed the challenge quite early in the year (helped along by reading the Stella longlist) but really slowed down as the year went on, and certainly didn’t come close to previous efforts. One of my books (won’t reveal which quite yet) is my favourite for the year.
Thanks Kate- I wait with bated breath for your favourite of the year.
I bet I can guess which one is the favourite Kate! 😉
Oh I hadn’t even tried to guess … now you have me thinking!
I think it’s one Kate and I mutually loved.
Ah, I haven’t been watching closely really … this year has been a blur I realise. I will wait to be surprised.
What a list!
As you know, I signed up for 2020 and I’m thinking of signing up for 2021.
Oh, we’d love you to, Emma. Thanks a bunch. It is so good having non-Aussie readers like you and Nancy contributing.
You are simply prodigious WG! All the best for 2021.
Thanks Jim, and thanks for all your engagement and encouragement. You always add something different to the discussions.
Can’t believe you’re disappointed with 26 titles! That’s an impressive tally! I think I’ve read 18 or 19. I plan on writing a wrap-up post in the next day or two. There’s some crossover with your fiction books, but I don’t think I read any nonfiction for this challenge, which is unusual for me.
I look forward to seeing your wrap up kimbofo. I guess I’m disappointed because all my reading was down and I’m seeing great books just pass me by. I know my priorities have been right for this time in my life, but I still miss the reading!
Hi Sue, I do read some of the reviews AWWC, but I don’t think I will set any goals. I read 45 novels by Australian women, and that includes both fiction and non fiction. I read 8 short story collections, and 31 non fiction books. I would like to read more non fiction in 2021. However, I have 8 books that are presents (and only one is non fiction).I just need more hours in the day.
I got NO books this year, Meg, so 8 sounds like luxury! I think they all knew how much I’m struggling right now to catch up, but I do like receiving books. BTW I wish I had as many hours in the day as you have!! Haha.
Why do you want to read more non-fiction?
Hi Sue, Over the years I think non fiction writing has improved in presentation. They are publicized much more and make me aware of how little I know. I find non fiction books are now more satisfying to read. The non fiction I like to read incorporates stories with facts and reality. I do like memoirs, nature and science stories.
Yes, I agree with you there, Meg. I would like to read more non-fiction too for the same reasons, though not necessarily because I find it more satisfying to read, but certainly if can be equally satisfying, and sometimes more suited to one’s mood.
The screen calendar to the right of this Reply box says 30/12, so I might be a bit pushed for time to summarize my year, but I will get there. Are there any books on your list which I have read? 4 I think.
Love the new AWW image design for 2021!
Here’s hoping I do better next year.
Just do what you can Brona, that’s all we can ask. But yes, it’s a zingy image isn’t it. I like it too.