Australia's Nita B Kibble Literary Awards aim to encourage women writers to advance the cause of literature. The Awards recognise women producing “life writing”. This includes novels, autobiographies, biographies, and any other writing with a strong personal element. Two awards are made each year, the Kibble Literary Award and the Dobbie Literary Award. The Kibble Literary Award, currently valued at A$30,000, recognises the work of an established Australian woman writer. The Dobbie Literary Award, currently valued at A$5,000, recognises a first published work from an Australian woman writer. The winners of this year’s Kibble and Dobbie Literary Awards have just been announced in Sydney.
The Kibble went to Annah Faulkner, for The Beloved, a novel set largely in a country usually ignored in literature: Papua New Guinea. This was where Faulkner grew up. The Beloved concerns intergenerational conflict between a mother and her daughter. When Roberta "Bertie" Lightfoot is struck down with polio she sets her heart on becoming an artist. Through drawing, she gives form and voice to the reality of the people and the world around her. While her father is happy to indulge her driving passion, her mother will not let art get in the way of the very different future she wishes for her only daughter.
In 1955 the family moves to Port Moresby, Here, in post-colonial Papua New Guinea, Bertie thrives amid the lush colours and the tropical abundance. She rebels against her mother's strict control, and secretly learns the techniques of drawing and painting from her mother's arch rival. But she is not the only one deceiving her family. As secrets come to light, the domestic varnish starts to crack, and jealousy and passion threaten to forever mar the relationship between Bertie and her mother.
Meanwhile, the Dobbie went to Lily Chan for Toyo: A Memoir, in which the author turns her artistic vision onto her own family's history, to provide an interpretation of her grandmother's extraordinary biography. Toyo is set in Japan before and after war, and also in Australia. Chan is well placed to write about both societies: she was born in Kyoto, and raised in Narrogin, in Western Australia; she now lives in Melbourne.
Toyo, Chan’s grandmother, was born into the traditional world of pre-war Osaka, Her father lived in China with his wife. Her unmarried mother, her father’s mistress, ran a café. As she grew up Toyo understood she must protect the secret of her parents’ true relationship, and thus keep herself and her mother in society’s good graces.
Toyo's life in Osaka was thrown into turmoil by World War Two. Through experiencing the changes of the time, through finding love, and through suffering painful loss, she grew into herself and became more aware of where she had come from. Through it all she clung to her parents’ secret.