“Vivid and complex” portrait wins nation’s richest prize for life writing

Thursday 26 August 2021

A “vivid and complex” portrait of remarkable First Nations woman Truganini has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award, the nation’s richest prize for biographical writing, the State Library of NSW announced TODAY [Thursday 26 August 2021].

Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus (Allen & Unwin) presents the extraordinary story of Truganini, a Nuenonne woman from Bruny Island, off Tasmania, whose life has been shrouded in myth for almost two centuries. In this award-winning work, Truganini claims her place as a survivor in the face of a determined effort to eradicate Aboriginal people from Tasmania.

According to Senior Judge, Suzanne Falkiner: “We were all impressed by Truganini, which combined evocative writing with scholarly research. The perceptive analysis of cultural incomprehension between black and white in 19th century Australia shows the resulting deceit, treachery, intentions both benevolent and malevolent, and unintended consequences.”

This year the $5,000 Michael Crouch Award for a Debut Work was presented to Andrew Kwong for his powerful and heartfelt memoir, One Bright Moon (HarperCollins Publishers). 

“Kwong’s understated but highly effective account of a childhood in Maoist China and his eventual journey to Australia is both historically informative and moving in its description of his family’s sacrifices for him,” said Ms Falkiner.

The shortlisted authors each receive $2,000:

  • The Lotus Eaters by Emily Clements (Hardie Grant Books)
  • Max by Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin)
  • Tell Me Why by Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster Australia)
  • Penny Wong: Passion and Principle by Margaret Simons (Black Inc. Books)

The National Biography Award is administered and presented by the State Library of NSW and is generously supported by the Nelson Meers Foundation.

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