Today, the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, alongside award trustee Perpetual, announced the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist featuring five exceptional titles. The announcement was broadcast nationally.
The 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist is:
- The Other Half of You by Michael Mohammed Ahmad (Hachette Australia)
- Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
- Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down (Text Publishing)
- One Hundred Days by Alice Pung (Black Inc. Books)
- Grimmish by Michael Winkler (Puncher and Wattmann)
This year the shortlist includes an author of a self-published title, a past Miles Franklin winner and three established authors. They will be competing for one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Australia, with the winner receiving $60,000.
“The outstanding feature of this year’s Miles Franklin shortlist is the range of dynamic and diverse voices that address the experience of pain, intergenerational trauma and intergenerational dialogue with compassion, exceptional craft and rigorous unsentimentality,” said Richard Neville, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian and Chair of the judging panel.
Joining Mr Neville on the judging panel is author and literary critic, Dr Bernadette Brennan; literary scholar, Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty; book critic, Dr James Ley; and author and editor, Dr Elfie Shiosaki.
Copyright Agency’s CEO, Josephine Johnston, said, “This year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist showcases some of our most talented and respected writers whose vibrant voices inspire and challenge our views of Australian life. We welcome the opportunity to celebrate the immense breadth of literary endeavour and our unique stories. Congratulations to all the shortlisted writers!”
Each of the 2022 shortlisted authors will receive $5,000 from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.
Join the Miles Franklin conversation on social media:
Michael Mohammed Ahmad - Finalist
The Other Half of You
Author photo credit: Anna Kucera
Michael Mohammed Ahmad is the founding director of Sweatshop Literacy Movement and editor of the critically acclaimed anthology After Australia (Affirm Press, 2020). Mohammed's debut novel, The Tribe (Giramondo, 2014), won the 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelists of the Year Award. His second novel, The Lebs (Hachette Australia, 2018), won the 2019 NSW Premier's Multicultural Literary Award and was shortlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Mohammed received his Doctorate of Creative Arts from Western Sydney University in 2017.
The irrepressible Bani Adam is back! This time, as an Australian father murmuring home truths to the bundle of joy, the blasphemous new blood, that has arrived in his tribal life. Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s latest addition to his Western Sydney trilogy takes us into the explosive intimacy of race and religion in Australia. The Other Half of You is the body-bruising, soul-searing confessional letter to a child, that anyone who has had to wrestle with the fluid-oozing, flesh-tearing oppositional pulls of family and freedom, community and calling, conformity and mutiny, will recognise. This is the howl of an Australian voice striving to be heard among the “nips, fobs, wogs and lebs” who animate the Bankstown line from centre to periphery, who crave Kentucky Fried Chicken, eschewing indiscriminatingly the delights of Lebanese kousa and born-again veganism. We accompany Bani on his journey from the fabled corridors of a sandstone university, where his English literary idols tell him in a thousand ways how he does not belong, into the arms of Sahara, warrior princess and hirsute love of his life. But love is a myriad-hued jewel, as Bani will discover: it exists equally in the tender image of Fatima wanting her freedom to wear pink g-strings and glued-on belly button rings, as it does in the anti-Arab skin of the White woman for whom Bani will exile himself from the House of Adam. In Kahlil, the White Wog son of Oli, the “half-insider, half-outsider” descendant of Alawites, Bani will also find the voice that sings the brilliant aria of Australia today.
Michelle de Kretser - Finalist
Author photo credit: Joy Lai
Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Australia. Her fiction is published across the world and has attracted wide acclaim.
Scary Monsters is a witty, meticulously witnessed and boldly imaginative work that rages against racism, ageism and misogyny. In this her seventh novel, Michelle de Kretser offers a provocative, disturbing yet often humorous take on some of the ways in which immigration ‘breaks people’. Through the twin narratives of Lili and Lyle, two South Asian migrants, she interrogates issues of belonging and authenticity, centre and periphery. Can immigrants to this country ever be thought of as something other than a ‘gimmicky trick’? And what of the gulf between being from Australia and being Australian? Lyle lives in the outer suburbs of Melbourne in a near dystopian future where Islamic worship is no longer tolerated, and a permanent fire zone and catastrophic sea levels have made much of Sydney uninhabitable. He works for ‘The Department’ in security and surveillance and to survive has become hollow, invisible and adept at ‘screaming inside [his] heart.’ Lili is on a gap year, teaching English in Montpelier before heading to Oxford. She is twenty-two, clever, ambitious and all too aware how her gender and skin colour circumscribe her opportunities. Mitterrand sweeps to victory but in Scary Monsters personal autonomy and the lived migrant experience are no match for ‘History’. Of central concern in this novel is the question: ‘What comes first, the future or the past’?
Jennifer Down - Finalist
Bodies of Light
Author photo credit: Leah Jing McIntosh
Jennifer Down is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Age, Saturday Paper, Australian Book Review and Literary Hub. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year consecutively in 2017 and 2018. Our Magic Hour, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her second book, Pulse Points, was the winner of the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction and the 2018 Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection in the Queensland Literary Awards, and was shortlisted for a 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Award. She lives in Naarm/Melbourne.
In Bodies of Light, Jennifer Down crafts a story of almost impossible regeneration from the ashes of unbearable pain and loss. The five-year-old Maggie, who will come to be known to us as Josie and Holly, undergoes a harrowing journey through state care, only to emerge with a new self. Through Maggie’s unreliable narration, we learn about her unstable life of being and becoming, and, as readers, we become increasingly unsettled ourselves. With ethical precision, Down insists that we do not look away from the destructive consequences of life on the fringes, that we do not render invisible those who come through, miraculously, despite decades spent in the shadows of institutionalised neglect, socially sanctioned loneliness, unforgivable poverty and the attendant abuse that accompanies these conditions.
Can a sense of self exist if there are no records of a life? If there is no-one to remember? Maggie wrestles with such questions. And more than once is almost destroyed by them. Ultimately, however, Bodies of Light is a novel of affirmation, resilience and survival, told through an astonishing voice that reinvents itself from age six to sixty. Through recounting her story and recording her memories, Maggie builds herself a body and realises that finally she is known.
Alice Pung - Finalist
One Hundred Days
Author photo credit: Courtney Brown
Alice Pung OAM is an award-winning writer based in Melbourne. She is the bestselling author of the memoirs Unpolished Gem and Her Father's Daughter, and the essay collection Close to Home, as well as the editor of the anthologies Growing Up Asian in Australia and My First Lesson. Her first novel, Laurinda, won the Ethel Turner Prize at the 2016 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. One Hundred Days is her most recent novel. Alice was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to literature in 2022.
In One Hundred Days, Alice Pung astutely explores the agencies of girls to unravel the bounds of gender, race and class and attempt to determine their futures for themselves. The novel follows the story of sixteen-year-old Karuna, who moves into a housing commission tower in Melbourne with her Philippines-born Chinese mother, Grand Mar, in the afterlife of her parents’ divorce. When Karuna falls pregnant, Grand Mar locks her in their flat for one hundred days before the birth of her child. Within this story, mothering practices transcend the ordinary and intimate, becoming instead an epic site of intergenerational cultural struggle between mother and daughter. Questioning the extent to which children belong to their parents, Pung sophisticatedly explores the co-existence of love, protection, control and abuse. While One Hundred Days carries the heaviness of Karuna’s captivity with suspense and claustrophobia, it is full of warmth and humour. Pung deftly revitalises traditional fairy tales by imbuing prickly and tenacious Karuna with lucid human agency, exploring diverse and complex narratives of hero(ine)ism, resilience and precariousness. We are fully immersed into the lived experiences of young women who attempt to resist a prescribed fate. Pung has gifted us with a novel of national significance, by making visible the stories of those deemed powerless, and vividly patterning the mosaic of Australian literature.
Michael Winkler - Finalist
Author photo credit: Joe Winkler
Michael Winkler is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee described Winkler’s novel Grimmish as, ‘The strangest book you are likely to read this year.’ Helen Garner said, ‘Grimmish meets a need I didn't even know I had. I lurched between bursts of wild laughter, shudders of horror, and gasps of awe at Winkler’s verbal command.’ Winkler won the Calibre Prize for The Great Red Whale, an essay about Uluru, relationships between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians, mental illness and Moby Dick. His journalism, short fiction, reviews and essays have been widely published and anthologised. michaelwinkler.com.au
Grimmish is based on the true story of a boxer named Joe Grim — a terrible boxer who somehow managed to sustain a professional career in the early twentieth century solely on the basis of his ability to take a savage beating without falling over. Around the historical tale of Grim’s unusual career, Michael Winker has crafted an equally unusual novel that is by turns playful, funny, heartfelt and deeply reflective. Interweaving comical and philosophical passages with the tall tales told by the narrator’s drunk “uncle” (one of which features a foul-mouthed talking goat), Grimmish sets out to anatomise the phenomenon of physical pain in mock-scholarly fashion. In doing so, it gently disentangles the ugly knot of violence and self-destructiveness at the heart of masculinity. Winker approaches his subject with keen eye for life’s absurdity, grotesquery and tragedy. The novel’s metafictional dimension — it begins with a “review” of itself — is deployed to great effect, the ironies of its formal self-consciousness acting as cover for its underlying sincerity and its distinct note of melancholy. Daring and hilarious, Grimmish is a uniquely witty and original contribution to Australian literature.
Author photo credit: ABC
Larissa is the author of three novels: Home, which won the 2002 David Unaipon Award and the regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book; Legacy, which won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and After Story. She has published numerous books on Indigenous legal issues; her most recent non-fiction book is Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling. She was awarded the 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year award and 2011 NSW Australian of the Year. Larissa wrote and directed the feature films, After the Apology and Innocence Betrayed and has written and produced several short films. In 2018 she won the Australian Directors’ Guild Award for Best Direction in a Documentary Feature and in 2020 the AACTA for Best Direction in Nonfiction Television. She is the host of Speaking Out on ABC radio and is Distinguished Professor at the Jumbunna Institute at the University of Technology Sydney.
When Indigenous lawyer Jasmine decides to take her mother, Della, on a tour of England’s most revered literary sites, Jasmine hopes it will bring them closer together and help them reconcile the past.
Twenty-five years earlier the disappearance of Jasmine’s older sister devastated their tight-knit community. This tragedy returns to haunt Jasmine and Della when another child mysteriously goes missing on Hampstead Heath. As Jasmine immerses herself in the world of her literary idols – including Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Virginia Woolf – Della is inspired to rediscover the wisdom of her own culture and storytelling. But sometimes the stories that are not told can become too great to bear.
Ambitious and engrossing, After Story celebrates the extraordinary power of words and the quiet spaces between. We can be ready to listen, but are we ready to hear?
Author photo credit: Nash Ferguson
Briohny Doyle is the author of the novel The Island Will Sink, and the memoir Adult Fantasy. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The Monthly, Meanjin, Overland, The Griffith Review, Good Weekend, The Guardian, and the Sunday Times. She’s performed at the Sydney Festival and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. She is a lecturer in writing and literature at Deakin University and a 2020 Fulbright Scholar. Echolalia is her second novel.
What could drive a mother to do the unthinkable?
Before: Emma Cormac married into a perfect life but now she’s barely coping. Inside a brand new, palatial home, her three young children need more than she can give. Clem, a wilful four year old, is intent on mimicking her grandmother; the formidable matriarch Pat Cormac. Arthur is almost three and still won't speak. At least baby Robbie is perfect. He’s the future of the family. So why can't Emma hold him without wanting to scream?
Beyond their gleaming windows, a lake vista is evaporating. The birds have mostly disappeared, too. All over Shorehaven, the Cormac family buys up land to develop into cheap housing for people they openly scorn.
After: The summers have grown even fiercer and the Cormac name doesn't mean what it used to. Arthur has taken it abroad, far from a family unable to understand him. Clem is a young artist who turns obsessively to the same dark subject. Pat doesn't even know what legacy means now. Not since the ground started sinking beneath her.
Meanwhile, a nameless woman has been released from state care. She sticks to her twelve-step program, recites her affirmations, works one day at a time on a humble life devoid of ambition or redemption. How can she have an after when baby Robbie doesn’t?
The Magpie Wing
Author photo credit: Nash Ferguson
Max Easton is a writer from south-west Sydney whose non-fiction work has appeared in Sydney Review of Books, Meanjin, Science for the People, The Lifted Brow and Mess+Noise. He is the creator of the underground music podcast Barely Human, and has played in a number of Sydney punk bands including BB & The Blips, The Baby, Basic Human and Romance. He is a former research scientist, and now works at the Western Suburbs Magpies rugby league club. The Magpie Wing is his first novel.
Helen, Walt and Duncan are looking for ways to entertain themselves in the sprawl of Sydney’s western suburbs. Walt, scrappy and idealistic, wants to prove a point and turns to petty vandalism. His friend Duncan is committed to his fledgling football career, and seeks out sexual encounters in unfamiliar houses. Walt’s sister Helen, in search of something larger than herself, is forced by scandal to leave the family home. As they move into adulthood they gravitate to the dingy glamour of the inner-city suburbs, looking to escape their families’ complicated histories, and to find new identities, artistic, sexual and political.
The Magpie Wing is set on football fields, in sharehouses, at punk gigs, and in dilapidated and gentrifying pubs. Max Easton’s debut novel moves from the nineties to the present, and between the suburbs and the inner city, exploring how communities that appear worlds apart – underground music scenes, rugby league clubs, communist splinter groups – often share unexpected roots.
Jennifer Mills is the author of the novels The Airways (forthcoming: Picador, 2021) Dyschronia (Picador, 2018), Gone (UQP, 2011) and The Diamond Anchor (UQP, 2009) and a collection of short stories, The Rest is Weight (UQP, 2012). In 2019 Dyschronia was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia's most prestigious prize for literary fiction, the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, and the Aurealis Awards for science fiction.
The Rest is Weight was shortlisted for the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards Steele Rudd Award for an Australian Short Story Collection and longlisted for the 2013 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. In 2012 Mills was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist and in 2014 she received the Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship from the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. Previous awards include the 2008 Marian Eldridge Award for Young Emerging Women Writers, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and the Northern Territory Literary Awards.
Mills' fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been widely published, appearing in Meanjin, Hecate, Overland, Heat, Island, the Lifted Brow, the Griffith Review, Best Australian Stories, New Australian Stories, and the Review of Australian Fiction, as well as being broadcast, recorded and performed from Adelaide to Berlin. Mills' creative residencies include time at Varuna and Bundanon, an Asialink residency in Beijing in 2010, and a residency at Yaddo in NY in 2015. She is a regular writer for Overland literary journal and has contributed criticism to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Wheeler Centre, and the Sydney Review of Books. From 2012-2018 she was the fiction editor at Overland.
I had a body once before. I didn't always love it. I knew the skin as my limit, and there were times I longed to leave it.
I knew better than to wish for this.
This is the story of Yun. It's the story of Adam.
Two young people. A familiar chase.
But this is not a love story.
It's a story of revenge, transformation, survival.
Feel something, the body commands. Feel this.
But it's a phantom . . . I go untouched.
They want their body back.
Who are we, if we lose hold of the body?
What might we become?
The Airways shifts between Sydney and Beijing, unsettling the boundaries of gender and power, consent and rage, self and other, and even life and death.
A powerful, inventive, and immersive novel from award-winning author Jennifer Mills.
Author photo credit: Leah Jing McIntosh
Claire Thomas is a Melbourne writer. Her acclaimed first novel was Fugitive Blue, which won the Dobbie Award for women writers, and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Claire holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne where she taught literary studies and creative writing for many years.
The false cold of the theatre makes it hard to imagine the heavy wind outside in the real world, the ash air pressing onto the city from the nearby hills where bushfires are taking hold.
The house lights lower.
The auditorium feels hopeful in the darkness.
As bushfires rage outside the city, three women watch a performance of a Beckett play.
Margot is a successful professor, preoccupied by her fraught relationship with her ailing husband. Ivy is a philanthropist with a troubled past, distracted by the snoring man beside her. Summer is a young theatre usher, anxious about the safety of her girlfriend in the fire zone.
As the performance unfolds, so does each woman's story. By the time the curtain falls, they will all have a new understanding of the world beyond the stage.
Author photo credit: Sarah Enticknap
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of seven novels, including Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-On, The Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award, as well as being made into a feature film. His fourth novel, the international bestseller The Slap, won Overall Best Book in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and won the Australian Literary Society Gold, as well as the 2009 Australian Booksellers Association and Australian Book Industry Awards Books of the Year.
Christos's fifth novel Barracuda was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the inaugural Voss Literary Prize. The Slap and Barracuda were both adapted into celebrated television series. Christos's acclaimed collection of short stories, Merciless Gods, was published in 2014 and his critical literary study On Patrick White came out in 2018. His sixth novel, Damascus, was published in 2019 and won the 2019 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Fiction. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne.
A man arrives at a house on the coast to write a book. Separated from his lover and family and friends, he finds the solitude he craves in the pyrotechnic beauty of nature, just as the world he has shut out is experiencing a cataclysmic shift. The preoccupations that have galvanised him and his work fall away, and he becomes lost in memory and beauty …
He also begins to tell us a story …
A retired porn star is made an offer he can't refuse for the sake of his family and future. So he returns to the world he fled years before, all too aware of the danger of opening the door to past temptations and long-buried desires. Can he resist the oblivion and bliss they promise?
A breathtakingly audacious novel by the acclaimed author of The Slap and Damascus about finding joy and beauty in a raging and punitive world, about the refractions of memory and time and, most subversive of all, about the mystery of art and its creation.