The Rise of the Asian-Australian writer

Hey cHEwY gum gums!

On Wednesday night, I attended the ABIA Awards as a guest of the ASA, and I was determined to make the most of it. Last year, one of the books that I was involved with, Funny Bones got a nod for Best Designed Children’s Book, so I would have had a legit reason to be there, seated at a lovely dinner, like all those cool people you see in the ARIAs. But then COVID happened and I watched it at home on YouTube. Sigh.

This year, the ABIAs Awards was a hybrid, mixing a telecast with some live announcements on either end of the night. It was more of a cocktail affair than a dinner, but it had the glitz and glamour of being in the Book Industry. I mean, I am a part of the Book Industry, but sometimes it feels so far away from where I am. For a night, I felt like I snuck in. I saw my long-time publisher, met some famous people like insta-YouTube chef Nat’s What I Reckon and rapper, Briggs and got a couple of happy snaps on the Red Carpet. Plus my publisher, Penguin Random House won Best Publisher of The Year so that was good timing to celebrate with the PRH crew hehe.

The biggest take-away of the night was that Asian-Australian writers are beginning to be a real force. Vivian Pham took out the best new writer award for her novel, The Coconut Children. Then Jessie Tu took out the best literary fiction book award for A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing. This was her debut novel. It was more than just a fresh voice on the scene, it felt like the start of a movement, of seeing these wonderful Asian-Australian authors step into the limelight.

I will admit, I only picked up A Lonely Girl is A Dangerous Thing because I wanted to support Asian-Australians. I don’t normally read adult fiction books, but I’m glad I did because wowee, what a stunner! It was such an explosive and impulsive story. I need to get a copy of The Coconut Children now hehe.

Jessie doing her acceptance speech during the telecast 🙂

Asian-Australians have always been around the best-sellers list and literacy circles. Shaun Tan. Anh Do. Nam Le. Alice Pung. But I feel like there’s no more token tag attached to Asian-Australian writers. We’re writing stories that still have a foot in the past, but is looking forward to the future. A Lonely Girl is a contemporary story, yet the Tiger Mum family pressure that the main character, violinist Jena Lin feels is something that many Asians growing up here can relate to.

I’m sure it won’t be long before we see more writers from different backgrounds, but as someone who will always fly the flag for Asian-Australians, I am so happy and proud to see Vivian and Jessie scoop up these awards. When I met Vivian and congratulated her, I was surprised to hear that she actually heard of me (ha!). She said that I was there paving the way for her. That means the world to me. I may not feel like I’m part of the book industry all the time, but not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that I’m part of the writers community.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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