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

by The Listener / 15 May, 2018
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

Why the vicar of Grantchester is James Norton's most complex character yet
91260 2018-05-22 00:00:00Z Television

Why the vicar of Grantchester is James Norton's mo…

by Fiona Rae

Actor James Norton has played a painter, a prince and a murderer, but none has been so conflicted as Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers in Grantchester.

Read more
The seven big threats to KiwiBuild
91218 2018-05-22 00:00:00Z Property

The seven big threats to KiwiBuild

by Nikki Mandow

KiwiBuild aims to provide 100,000 homes over the next decade. But can it deliver? Some in construction regard the target as hopelessly over-ambitious.

Read more
Win the Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
91256 2018-05-21 16:48:31Z Win

Win the Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Po…

by The Listener

To celebrate the arrival of Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive to Sky Arts, the Listener is giving away copies of his complete tales and poems.

Read more
Get the best of both worlds at 1947 eatery
91249 2018-05-21 16:27:35Z Auckland Eats

Get the best of both worlds at 1947 eatery

by Kate Milliken

Metro Top 50 restaurant 1947 eatery is all about the traditions of Indian cuisine in a sleek, modern setting.

Read more
A Garage Project party, a film about Coco's Cantina and other Auckland food news
91214 2018-05-21 14:22:42Z Auckland Eats

A Garage Project party, a film about Coco's Cantin…

by Kate Richards

What’s happening and what’s coming up in Auckland food.

Read more
Siri, what the hell is happening in Westworld?
91196 2018-05-21 10:38:46Z Television

Siri, what the hell is happening in Westworld?

by Greg Dixon

The revolting robots of Westworld’s first series are back with a vengeance in the second outing – and it's all quite confusing.

Read more
Government cans plans for mega-prison at Waikeria
91188 2018-05-21 08:50:48Z Social issues

Government cans plans for mega-prison at Waikeria

by Craig McCulloch

Plans to build a new mega-prison at Waikeria have been scrapped, but the government has yet to decide what to do instead.

Read more
Auckland Council stalled release of reports
91183 2018-05-21 07:20:04Z Auckland Issues

Auckland Council stalled release of reports

by Todd Niall

The release of the $935k consultants' report on a downtown stadium was the third time RNZ had to resort to the Ombudsman to extract public information

Read more