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1 8 BOOKS litlit BITSBITS Crime-writing awards Congratulations to Canberra crime writer Kel Robertson, whose second

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Crime-writing awards

Congratulations to Canberra crime writer Kel Robertson, whose second novel, Smoke & Mirrors (Ginninderra Press), has jointly won the Ned Kelly award for best fiction with Peter Corris’s Deep Water. The best first fiction award went to Nick Gadd for Ghostlines, and the true crime award to Chloe Hooper for The Tall Man.

And to add to her awards, Chloe Hooper’s book has also

won a Sisters in Crime Davitt Award, given for the best crime-writing by Australian women. Best crime novel went to Malla Nunn’s debut novel, A Beautiful Place To Die, while Catherine Jinks won the Davitt in the young- adult category for Genius Squad .

Clanchy up for prize

Canberra author John Clanchy is on the short list in the

2009 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards for the Steele

Rudd Award for short stories for his most recent collection, Her Father’s Daughter . He won the award in

2005 for his collection Vincenzo’s Garden.

Literary winners

Steven Amsterdam has won of the Age Book of the Year and the Age Fiction Book of the Year for his debut novel, Things We Didn’t See Coming, the first novel to be published by the small Melbourne publisher Sleepers.

Melbourne bookseller Leanne Hall has won the $10,000

Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, and a publishing contract, with her debut novel, This Is Shyness.

Irish novelist Sebastian Barry has won the James Tait

Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Secret Scripture.

PM’s Literary Awards

The short lists for the 2009 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards will be announced on Friday, September 18, in Melbourne. Fiction judges Professor Peter Pierce (chair), Professor John Hay and Dr Lyn Gallacher have reviewed 93 fiction entries to select their short list, while non-fiction judges Phillip Adams (chair), Peter Rose and Professor Joan Beaumont have waded through 161 books.

Fellowship of Australian Writers

Tomorrow: Children’s creative-writing workshop on the theme of Dreaming the Australian Bush, in the Friends Room, National Library, 10am-noon. Cost: $10 includes morning tea. At the FAW’s adult meeting, 1-4pm, Ross Hamilton from the ACT Writers Centre will conduct a poetry writing workshop. Entry is by gold coin donation. Inquiries: Elita, 6292 6339.

Indigenous Literacy Day

Wednesday: Andrew McMillan, author of Chief Minister’s NT Book of the Year 2009 An Intruder’s Guide To East Arnhem Land , will be in conversation with historian David Headon at Paperchain bookstore, Manuka, with special guest Kate Grenville, 5.45pm for 6pm. RSVP by Tuesday: 6295 6723 or info@paperchainbookstore.com.au

Books Alive

The promoters of Australia’s largest annual promotion of books and reading say this year’s Books Alive is shaping up to be the biggest yet. The promotion began on Thursday and runs to September 30. During the campaign period, those who buy any of the books listed in a free guide to the year’s best reads will receive free one of two books, both exclusive to Books Alive. For adults there’s a free collection of specially commissioned short stories by 10 top writers. Called 10 Short Stories You Must Read This Year , it contains stories by award-winning authors alongside writers who have a very bright future. The authors are Robert Drewe, Anita Heiss, Toni Jordan, Tom Keneally, Kathy Lette, Monica McInerney, William McInnes, Melina Marchetta, Jack Marx and Peter Temple. For children, there’s a brand-new title in the popular Australian Grug series called Grug Learns to Read .

Thursday, September 10: As part of Books Alive,

Melina Marchetti will be at the National Library for a talk and screening of the film of her book Looking for Alibrandi at 12.30pm. At 6pm she will speak about the Books Alive program and how she became an author and what writing means to her. This will be followed by a book signing in the National Library bookshop. Bookings: 6262 1271.

Poetry at the Gods

Tuesday, September 8: Sydney poet Judith Bishop and Alex Skovron from Melbourne will read at the Gods, ANU Arts Centre, at 8pm. Bookings: 6248 5538.

Magabala diary

Congratulations to Lucy Micklethwaite, of Wamboin, who has won our giveaway copy of the 2010 hardcover diary from indigenous publishers Magabala Books.

Literary Editor: Gia Metherell Information for Litbits should arrive by noon on Wednesday to be considered for publication. Email to gia.metherell@canberratimes.com.au

Girls face up to adult dilemmas

Three new novels explore relations between the young and their elders, Margaret Bromley writes

S ally Grindley’s latest novel, Torn Pages (Bloomsbury. 213pp. $15.99), takes young

readers on a confronting journey. Thirteen-year-old Lydia is left to fend for her younger brother and sister. In her village the cause of her parents’ deaths is unmentionable. The other villagers are suspicious of African AIDS orphans. Torn Pages is a realistic depiction of the poverty and alienation experienced by the other AIDS victims, the orphaned children. Grandma has stolen what little money is left and refuses to believe her son’s adultery is the cause of her grandchildren’s misery and poverty. She is the bane of their lives as she attempts to deprive them of an education that might further their chances in life. There is no one to protect the children from the malice and greed of others. Lydia’s morale – and the reader’s – is sustained by the memory book her mother wrote, incorporating her deep love and advice for the children she leaves behind. ‘‘There are those who will see a vulnerable girl before them and offer their protection. It’s not protection they are offering, you know that, don’t you?’’ Mama writes. It gives Lydia the courage to speak out, and she confronts Jabu, whom she suspects is collaborating with Grandma. As the children face dispossession of their family home, Lydia remembers her mother’s wisdom: both ‘‘poverty and wealth can destroy a person’s judgment of what is right and what is wrong’’. Mama has anticipated many of the obstacles which her children have to face alone in the world. When little sister Kesi becomes critically ill, Lydia is forced to re- learn how to trust people. Readers aged 10 to secondary level will appreciate Grindley’s accessible and fluid narrative of children’s resilience and attempts to throw off the noose of poverty. In Sally Murphy’s Pearl Verses the World (Walker. 79pp. $14.95), Pearl’s teacher wants her to write in rhyme. Pearl realises the restrictions of writing in rhyme, that rhyme isn’t necessarily poetry. There’s a lot going on in Pearl’s life. She wants to write about things that are important to her, to escape from ‘‘the class- room that has been your prison for the day’’. Pearl’s Granny has Alzheimer’s – ‘‘she is still here with us, but she doesn’t remember who we are’’.

Mum has taken leave from her job to look after Granny at home. Pearl’s rhythmic verse vividly depicts Granny’s deterioration and acknowledges the burden of care which falls on her mother. ‘‘So Mum spends her days/And her nights/Looking after her mum, my granny/Wiping her nose, her brow, her bottom./Never complaining/But always looking so tired.’’ ‘‘I am in a group of one,’’ Pearl writes of her isolation at school. Only Mitchel Mason appreciates Pearl’s view of the world, her verse and her humour. When Granny dies Pearl and her mother discuss funerals, caskets and songs. Pearl recalls Granny’s words:

‘‘a poem does not have to rhyme’’, and takes courage to write a poem for Gran. And it doesn’t rhyme. Sally Murphy’s novel in verse

And it doesn’t rhyme. Sally Murphy’s novel in verse concisely explores loss, grieving and recuperation through

concisely explores loss, grieving and recuperation through the eyes of

a child. Heather Potter’s illustrations invite another level of interpretation to the narrative. She introduces a cat, which seems to understand Pearl and her mother’s needs for companionship, compassion and humour in their lives. The narrator of Morris Gleitzman’s latest novel, Grace, (Viking. 181pp. $19.95) is another young thinker and writer. Grace’s family history project has a touch of irony and humour, unappreciated by the elders in her church. Her father

is blamed for her indiscretions and

his family sins: ‘‘in our church fathers were meant to be strict and make their families be meek and obedient’’.

Members of their church are not allowed to use public phones or mobile phones, nor socialise with

outsiders, the ‘‘unsaved sinners’’. For Grace, ‘‘girls having long hair as sign of obedience to God was a real pain’’. This is a dramatic story of adults who insist on dominating children’s lives, of children being indoctrinated into bigotry and excluding others. People in Grace’s church are ‘‘a special type of Christian’’ who can’t touch outsiders because they ‘‘could catch demons’’ from them, which leads to ‘‘treating everybody else as their enemy’’. Grace’s family think differently and choose to live among outsiders. She and her father have a close and healthy relationship. They enjoy discussions about going to heaven, the creation of the universe, love and demons. ‘‘Just people swapping ideas so they can understand God better,’’ says Dad. Grace says, ‘‘Dad encourages me to think about things and ask questions. And I encourage him back’’. But the elders ‘‘who carry on as if they’re god’’ are repressive and vindictive. Their fundamentalist attitudes are reinforced by the church school. Grace’s classmate Delilah, ‘‘who always thought the world was ending’’, relishes in the psychological punishment of Grace for her questioning ‘‘disobedience’’. When Grace is bullied and sent to ‘‘Bible solitary’’, not allowed food and drink, her father disappears. Dad is sacked from his job, expelled from the church and his family, kidnapped and imprisoned for having ‘‘a dark and sinful heart’’. Expelled from school for ‘‘trying to think for myself’’, Grace

sets out to find her Dad, defying her tyrannical Grandpop and Uncle Vern as well as her mother. The scenarios and behaviour depicted in Gleitzman’s novel are disturbingly authentic. Feisty young Grace is a believable and admirable character. At an age when father- daughter bonds are particularly important, Grace’s relationship with her father remains emotionally and intellectually strong. There’s just enough humour to lighten this exploration of the dark ideologies of fundamentalism. This

is one of the best books that Morris Gleitzman has written. It is certainly the bravest. It will give readers of 10 and upwards lots to think and talk about.

Margaret Bromley is a former teacher, undertaking a PhD in children’s literature.

teacher, undertaking a PhD in children’s literature. Funerary Song of an Indus Valley Widow Did the
teacher, undertaking a PhD in children’s literature. Funerary Song of an Indus Valley Widow Did the
teacher, undertaking a PhD in children’s literature. Funerary Song of an Indus Valley Widow Did the

Funerary Song of an Indus Valley Widow

Did the sea rise and take you from the boat, As the snake scales a tree and swallows The nestlings of a newly married bird. Each moment brings for me an un-quenching pain. Before the year was out and my shorn hair were even Not as high as a day-old seedling of grain, Your brother took me as his wife against Your mother wishes. She cursed him for his haste. Was your boat upended? Are you marooned on a lagoon? Do you ever remember me? Have you married again? Your memories, like millipedes crawl all over my mind. I don’t even know if you are alive or dead. You never saw your son catching my hair in his tiny hands; And suckle my breasts with his toothless gums. His antics, his laughter sprinkled happiness all around Just as the golden shower by the well outside scatters its flowers.

Last night I made rice pudding in sugarcane juice. You used to eat a whole bowlful and ask for more. Your brother didn’t touch it; and beat me for making it. He tends his juice for days, drinks it when it goes sour. Who washed your body and dressed it for the grave? Did it lie exposed for the wolves and famishing eagles? Do you know your brother took your son when he was five; And pushed the little boy down from the City-wall.

He gave a pig to the Elders and they freed him of his crime. They declared your son, my lovely boy, died in an accident.

I toil here with his other women at the loom.

A passer-by says, ‘‘Her man was a champion boatman.’’

My happiness had just begun to bud when it was mown down.

O my husband, I am too young to be a widow.

I am so desolate. There is a storm within my brain.

How can there be hope when there is no consolation.

Vidya S. Sharma