Heritage Literary Awards 2021

This year’s winners and runner-up of the NZSA New Zealand Literary Heritage Awards have been selected from over 160 entries submitted in all six categories.

Front cover of Stephanie Johnsons 'Everything Changes'
The cover of Stephanie Johnson's award-winning 'Everything Changes'. Credit: Penguin NZexpand/collapse
The winners and runners-up were announced at a ceremony in Christchurch’s St Michael and Angels church on Friday, 22 October 2021.

Nonfiction Books Section – Katie Pickles and Sally Blundell

Winner: Rock College: An unofficial history of Mount Eden Prison by Mark Derby (Massey University Press)

Katie Pickles and Sally Blundell said: ‘Rock College is an engaging, compassionate and thoroughly-researched exploration of the dark heritage of the forbidding, sprawling Mt Eden Prison in Auckland. In exploring this history, Mark Derby shines a new light on our colonial and more recent past: our wars and protests; our attitudes to women, children and people of different ethnicities; our criminals, our layabouts, our victims.’ Those who know Auckland well, will appreciate this glimpse beyond the walls of one of the city’s landmark buildings.

Runner-up: Kia Whakanuia te Whenua: People, Place, Landscape Edited by Carolyn Hill for Landscape Foundation (Mary Egan Publishing)

The judges said: ‘This fresh and timely Māori-led collection is bursting with knowledge that focuses on ideas concerning whenua, tinana and wairua to intervene in ways of thinking about people and landscape. The result is a beautifully produced and powerful intervention into current debates concerning the fields of traditional science and western science that extends how heritage itself is defined.

Fiction Books Section – Paula Morris

Winner: Everything Changes by Stephanie Johnson (Vintage)

Paula Morris said:
‘This novel is searing social commentary—by turns witty, tragic and poignant. It’s particularly strong on the lives of young women, their rage and vulnerability, the weight of expectations they bear, and their complex relationships with their mothers. The places evoked in the book, both rural and urban, are vivid and particular. Everything Changes asks us to consider if places change us, or if we can really change at all. A great, rich read.’ Stephanie Johnson is a well-known and award-winning Auckland writer. She was one of the founder organisers of the Auckland Writers’ Festival which is now one of our premier literary events.

Runner-Up: The Tally Stick by Carl Nixon (Vintage)
The judge said: ‘Tense as a thriller, engrossing as a mystery, this novel examines lives in deep isolation on the West Coast of the South Island. How can the children who survive a car crash in the late 70s disentangle themselves from deep, unfamiliar bush—and their rescuers?’ Carl is a leading Christchurch writer.
Wily Publications Ltd prize

Best non-fiction book about the heritage of the Canterbury /West Coast region. 
Categories in this section can include heritage, memoir or biography.

Winner: House of Treasures: 150 Objects from Canterbury Museum Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho (published by the museum)

This book celebrates the Canterbury Museum’s 150th anniversary by detailing 150 taonga (treasures) from the Museum’s collection. Each one is photographed by Jane Ussher. Each of the 150 objects is accompanied by text written by Museum curators and researchers. A short history of the Museum, by Museum Director Anthony Wright and Curatorial Manager Sarah Murray, introduces the book.

Runner-up: Enough Horizon: the life and work of Blanche Baughan by Carol Markwell (Cuba Press)

One of the first writers to speak with an authentic New Zealand voice, Blanche Baughan (1870-1958) was known as a poet and local travel writer. It was in Akaroa, that Blanche's writing and interests in the environment and her advocacy for the vulnerable in society flourished. She was a botanist, conservationist, humanitarian and prison reformer.

Children’s Books Section - Gavin Bishop

Winner: I am the Universe by Vasanti Unka (published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House 2020)

Gavin Bishop says: ‘Vasanti Unka is in total control in this deceptively simple book. In this picture book she simply does not put a foot wrong. The cliche that tells us "a picture is worth a thousand words," has never been truer than it is here. The language is simply and brief. It has not been dumbed down. The pictures are glorious, bursting from the page to fill the reader's mind with thousands of words, ideas, and experiences.’

Runner-up: New Zealand Disasters by Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic (published by Scholastic NZ Ltd 2021)

Maria Gill has a long and successful publishing career in non-fiction. Her books are known for their careful research and interesting, and in this case, disturbing facts. New Zealand Disasters is scary, exciting and alarming. The disturbing text is supported by Marcus Ivancic’s dramatic illustrations of the disasters that fill the pages with action and rich colour.

Te Reo Māori Books Section – Charisma Rangipunga

Winner: He iti te Kupu: Māori metaphors and similes by Hona Black (Oratia Books)

Judge’s comment: ‘Hona Black's bilingual collection of metaphors and similes is a tool not to be underestimated. It offers a range of things. On one side of the page it provides the learner with explanations of traditional Māori metaphors and similes in English. Look to the next page, and you find the same commentary offered in te reo Māori but with further insights into Mātauranga Māori.’

Runner-up: Mihi by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

Mihi is a beautifully illustrated picture book created for the youngest of our readers in te reo Māori. This book uses simple language to support the connection of the reader to place and to landscape.