Do Oysters Get Bored? A curious life

2019 -

Judges comments

A finely observed reflection on the complexities of family relationships, aptly subtitled a curious life. Rozanna Lilley is the mother of an autistic son, Oscar, and the daughter of eccentric libertarians whose parenting left her own childhood “carelessly broken”. The book takes the form of a series of loosely linked essays and concludes with 44 intensely personal poems, truly poetry as memoir. The stories of Lilley’s childhood and her own parenting are beautifully and gently integrated. She reflects on caring for Oscar and her father, who is suffering from dementia, with tenderness and sensitivity. The recounting of her sexual abuse as a teenager is searing but restrained as Lilley carefully examines the long impact of childhood trauma.

As a parent who has become a researcher on autism and child development, having first trained as an anthropologist, Lilley’s observations are informed and acute. The writing is poetic, subtle and nuanced. While clear about the difficulties and demands of raising a child with special needs, Lilley writes with tenderness and humour of the many pleasures and delights her beloved Oscar brings to family life.

About the author


Rozanna Lilley

Rozanna Lilley grew up in South Perth, the youngest of five children. Her parents - Dorothy Hewett and Merv Lilley - were both left wing radicals and writers. They moved to Sydney in Lilley’s last year of primary school. After school, Lilley attended a drama school and was in two feature films: Journey Among Women (1977) and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978). Lilley has worked as a social anthropologist at universities in Australia and Hong Kong, returning home when her second child, Oscar, was born. Lilley then completed a second PhD in Early Childhood at Macquarie University. She has published creative non-fiction and poetry in national newspapers, literary journals and edited collections.