2022 NZ Book Awards

Identity comes through as a strong building block for all the fiction shortlisters this year. Misunderstanding of identity, attempts to place ones self in the realms of “normality”, studies of those with identity issues. Not only is this topical but important for writers to showcase the metaphorical and literal exploration of what it means to be ones self.

In Kurangaituku, the protagonist is a bird woman, misunderstood and seen as both a monster and a sex object. She is buried during the great eruption of Taupō and claws her way through the crust of the earth for a new beginning where she longs for love and acceptance.

In A Good Winter the protagonist is a middle aged woman who views her identity and her rights over others as far more privileged than they deserve to be. Her inability to reconcile her identity with the world around her causes her to instil harm and concern to those around her.

The protagonist in Entanglement is a time traveller. His identity is split into fragments spread over three countries and in several different time frames. He wants to return to 1977 to correct a mistake while examining the many parts of his identity and the tragedies that shattered him.

Greta and Valdin, of the eponymous novel, are gay, part Maori, part Russian siblings who constantly analyse what it means to be stretched between several stereotypes. Through their familial, educational and romantic experiences we observe all sorts of identity conflict and misconceptions.

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❝ For the first time in all our years of (novice!) book award judging, I want to choose a four way tie. Normally there is at least one book I know will not be in my final line up, but this time every work was compelling and intelligent and meaningful and though I enjoyed each for different reasons I can justify why each should win the top prize!

Kurangaituki for its importance and stunning prose. Entanglement for its intelligence and study of emotion. Greta & Valdin for its accurate representation of New Zealand’s diversity. A Good Winter for its enjoyable exploration of an unstable mind.

I’ve re-written this paragraph several times, stating a preference for a different two or three each time, but can’t bear to leave one of them out! So, I’ll mention only one, and that is the book which I think will have longevity and relevance in years to come. Therefore, I’m picking Kurangaituku for the top gong. But I’ll be pleased whomever wins! – Rachel

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❝ These books fell into two categories for me with Greta and Valdin and A Good Winter being so engaging and almost demanding of my time as I tried to sneak as many moments as possible to sit down with them and find out what the characters were up to next. I found both stories utterly compelling

Whereas Kurangaituku and Entanglement were structurally quite unusual and were also written with such beauty and intelligence. As a reader I also found them less accessible.

I think any of these books are utterly worthy of the prize and geez I cannot bloody wait to hear who’s going to take it out on the night – if I had to make a call though I think Kurangaituku may just do it. – Suzy

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