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Monday musings on Australian literature: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

December 28, 2020
AWW Challenge 2019 Badge

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:

Fiction

Book cover

Short stories

Book cover

Anthologies/Essays

Non-fiction

Book cover

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.

Chloe Hooper, The Arsonist

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

Challenge logo

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 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2020 22:47

    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?

    • December 29, 2020 07:50

      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!

      • December 29, 2020 13:38

        That reminds me, I must tidy up my review of Coonardoo for Gen 3…

        • December 29, 2020 22:47

          You have some time! He’s running it a week later I think this year than last.

  2. December 28, 2020 23:05

    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!)

  3. December 28, 2020 23:18

    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.

  4. December 29, 2020 00:20

    What a list!
    As you know, I signed up for 2020 and I’m thinking of signing up for 2021.

    • December 29, 2020 08:02

      Oh, we’d love you to, Emma. Thanks a bunch. It is so good having non-Aussie readers like you and Nancy contributing.

  5. December 29, 2020 01:10

    You are simply prodigious WG! All the best for 2021.

    • December 29, 2020 08:04

      Thanks Jim, and thanks for all your engagement and encouragement. You always add something different to the discussions.

  6. December 29, 2020 11:00

    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.

    • December 29, 2020 11:10

      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!

  7. Meg permalink
    December 30, 2020 17:09

    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.

    • December 30, 2020 18:11

      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?

      • Meg permalink
        December 30, 2020 21:24

        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.

        • December 30, 2020 21:28

          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.

  8. December 30, 2020 17:25

    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.

  9. December 31, 2020 23:38

    Love the new AWW image design for 2021!
    Here’s hoping I do better next year.

    • January 1, 2021 00:52

      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.

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