Listener journalist Diana Wichtel wins big at the Ockham Book Awards 2018

by The Listener / 15 May, 2018

Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read

RelatedArticlesModule - Ockham NZ Book Awards

Diana Wichtel, winner of two Ockham book awards.

Other winners of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards include Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins, Elizabeth Smither, and Pip Adam, who took home the biggest prize of the night.

Listener journalist Diana Wichtel’s family memoir Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father has won two major prizes at this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Wichtel won both the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction of $10,000 and the The E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award of $2500 for General Non-Fiction at tonight’s presentation in Auckland.

Her book followed her search for her father, a Polish Jew who had escaped the Holocaust and immigrated to Canada. There, Benjamin Wichtel met and married Diana’s New Zealand-born mother who eventually returned to her home country with her children. The family lost contact with him.

The book, published by Awa Press, had its beginnings in a Listener story Wichtel wrote about searching for her father’s roots and his life in Poland during World War II published in 2011.

“Wichtel’s curiosity, alternately upsetting and uplifting, turns invisibly into a kind of mission,” the category’s judges said. “At its heart this is a family story, but one which cannot but shine a light on the vestiges of anti-Semitism that linger in Europe today.  It is not just a beautifully written book, but an important book, too.”

The category shortlist included Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond (Auckland University Press);  Drawn Out: A Seriously Funny Memoir by Tom Scott (Allen & Unwin NZ); and Dancing with the King: The Rise and Fall of the King Country, 1864-1885 by Michael Belgrave (Auckland University Press).

Winner Pip Adams. Photo/Victoria Birkinshaw

Winner Pip Adam. Photo/Victoria Birkinshaw

The night’s richest award, the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, went to Wellington writer Pip Adam for her novel The New Animals (Victoria University Press), a book that parodies the Auckland fashion scene. It was met with mixed local reviews upon its release.

“The New Animals is so vivid in imagery and imagination that the judges haven’t stopped thinking about it since,” said the Ockham organisers. “In this category in 2018, it’s the book with the most blood on the page. It will give you an electric shock.”

Academics Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins won the illustrated non-fiction category for Tuai: A traveller in two worlds (Bridget Williams Books), an account of the life of a Ngare Raumati chief from the Bay of Islands who journeyed to Georgian England in the early days of British colonialism.

Said the judges: “The text and illustrations work in concert, presenting a rounded and rich experience for the reader, enhancing the breadth and depth of the research explored within. Key moments are presented so richly that they envelop and captivate the imagination.”

Kuni Kaa Jenkins and Alison Jones.

Kuni Kaa Jenkins and Alison Jones.

The winner of the poetry category was Elizabeth Smither, who has won the prize twice before, for her latest collection Night Horse (Auckland University Press). The judges described the poems as gentle, uplifting, tender, humorous, well-crafted and luminous.”

The poetry and illustrated non-fiction winners were each awarded $10,000.

Other awards presented at the Aotea Centre ceremony included:

The Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction: Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press), which was also shortlisted in the Acorn Foundation Prize.

The Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner (Victoria University Press).

The Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction: Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness by Marcus Thomas and Neil Silverwood (Whio Publishing).

Each best first book Award winner received $2500.

The 2018 Ockham NZ Book Awards judges were:

Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize: Poet, novelist and academic Anna Smaill; journalist Philip Matthews; bookseller and reviewer Jenna Todd; Glasgow-based writer, journalist and founding editor of the Scottish Review of Books Alan Taylor.

Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction: Ella Henry, lecturer in AUT’s Māori Faculty; journalist Toby Manhire; former bookseller and publisher, Philip King.

Illustrated Non-Fiction: Barbara Brookes, author of last year’s winner A History of New Zealand Women; Matariki Williams, curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa; Kim Paton, director of the public gallery Objectspace.

Poetry: Poet and novelist Alison Wong; poet Robert Sullivan, deputy chief executive, Māori, Manukau Institute of Technology; poet, publisher and librettist Michael Harlow.

Latest

Father figure: Jordan Watson on his 'How to Dad' series
93157 2018-07-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

Father figure: Jordan Watson on his 'How to Dad' s…

by North & South

The breakout Youtube star talks about 'How to Dad', paternity leave, and his own dad.

Read more
With friends like Donald Trump, who needs enemies?
93834 2018-07-21 00:00:00Z World

With friends like Donald Trump, who needs enemies?…

by Paul Thomas

The US President treats his Western allies to a tongue-lashing while cosying up to Vladimir Putin, causing alarm at home and around the world.

Read more
Who Is America? is predictably alarming – and scarily relevant
93831 2018-07-21 00:00:00Z Television

Who Is America? is predictably alarming – and scar…

by Diana Wichtel

Only Bernie Sanders comes out unscathed in Sacha Baron Cohen’s absurdist new series Who Is America?

Read more
Organic wine is getting bigger in New Zealand. These are our top picks
93885 2018-07-21 00:00:00Z Wine

Organic wine is getting bigger in New Zealand. The…

by Michael Cooper

Quality rather than quantity drives New Zealand's organic wine producers.

Read more
Killer robots: The question of how to control lethal autonomous weapons
93876 2018-07-20 08:23:45Z Tech

Killer robots: The question of how to control leth…

by Peter Griffin

The computer scientist who has become a leading voice on the threat posed by killer robots describes himself as an “accidental activist”.

Read more
The man who's making sure performing artists are seen in the regions
93813 2018-07-20 00:00:00Z Theatre

The man who's making sure performing artists are s…

by Elisabeth Easther

For 35 years, Steve Thomas has been at the helm of Arts On Tour, taking musical and theatrical acts from Kaitaia to Stewart Island.

Read more
The Eco Economy: Millennials, money and saving sustainably
93645 2018-07-20 00:00:00Z Economy

The Eco Economy: Millennials, money and saving sus…

by Sharon Stephenson

Millenials are leading the rise of the eco economy.

Read more
Cuba Libre is a new Caribbean-influenced restaurant-bar in Ponsonby
93862 2018-07-19 15:05:51Z Auckland Eats

Cuba Libre is a new Caribbean-influenced restauran…

by Kate Richards

Rum, cigars and Cuban sandwiches are on the menu at new Ponsonby restaurant, Cuba Libre.

Read more