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.
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.