• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Whanganui writer Airini Beautrais has won the premier award at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her book Bug Week – her first book of fiction

May 12, 2021

Whanganui writer Airini Beautrais has won the premier award at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her book Bug Week – it’s her first book of fiction and it’s also the first time the category has been won by a collection of short stories in more than a decade.
Airini Beautrais. Photo: Tracy Grant
Beautrais won the $57,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction with a book that convenor of judges Kiran Dass described as a knockout from start to finish.
“Casting a devastating and witty eye on humanity at its most fallible and wonky, this is a tightly-wound and remarkably assured collection. Atmospheric and refined, these stories evoke a strong sense of quiet unease, slow burning rage and the absurdly comic,” Dass said.
Guest international fiction co-judge, award-winning American novelist Tommy Orange, said: “I was consistently surprised by sentences, the beauty and singular language. If the book were a bug, it would be a big one, with teeth and venom, with wings and a surprising heart, possibly several, beating on every page with life”.
You can listen to a review of Bug Weekhere on RNZ.
Bug Week has stories that roam from New Zealand to Europe, from the weird and grotesque to the sharply comical and pointedly feminist.
Whanganui-based Beautrais was born in Auckland in 1982 and has authored four collections of poetry.
Other awards
Vincent O’Sullivan won the general non-fiction award for his work, The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere A Biographical Portrait.
Category convenor Dr Sarah Shieff said as a biographer, O’Sullivan displayed masterly skill.
“This is a sensitive, detailed portrait of one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important modern artists, shaped around the four pou of Hotere’s identity: his Moritanga, his faith, his whenua, and his whnau. The judges would like to commend Vincent O’Sullivan for an extraordinary achievement in biography.”
Celebrated Christchurch poet Tusiata Avia won the poetry category for her collection The Savage Coloniser Book – the first Pasifika woman ever to win the award.
Poetry category convenor Dr Briar Wood said Avia’s book was an enthralling performance.
“The violence of shared and fractured histories surfaces throughout the collection like liquefaction, unsettling, displacing, disrupting. The poet’s experience of hospitalisation and seizures likewise overflows, mingling with the ancient arts of spiritual possession to inspire contemporary outpourings.”
Wellington chef and food writer Monique Fiso won the illustrated non-fiction awards for Hiakai: Modern Mori Cuisine.
Te Mrau o te Tuhi, a discretionary Mori Language Award, was presented this year to language and tikanga academic T Tmoti Kretu for his work Mtmua ko te Kupu!, which offered a lifetime of insights into the artforms of haka and waiata.
Other category winners

  • The Hubert Church Prize for a best first book of Fiction: Victory Park by Rachel Kerr
  • The E.H. McCormick Prize for a best first work of General Non-Fiction: Specimen: Personal Essays by Madison Hamill
  • The Jessie Mackay Prize for a best first book of Poetry: I Am a Human Being by Jackson Nieuwland