Debut poet Grace Yee wins $125,000 for ‘feminist vision’ at Victorian premier’s literary awards | Awards and prizes

Debut poet Grace Yee wins 5,000 for ‘feminist vision’ at Victorian premier’s literary awards | Awards and prizes


A first-time poet has won both the $100,000 Victorian prize for literature and the $25,000 poetry category at this year’s Victorian premier’s literary awards, becoming the first poet to win the overall award in a decade.

Selected from a record 807 books entered for the prize, Grace Yee won the awards on Thursday night for her debut collection Chinese Fish, which was initially part of her PhD on Chinese women writers in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and in part inspired by growing up in Aotearoa’s Chinese community, which dates back to the mid 19th century.

Speaking before she was aware she had won the overall prize, the now-Melbourne-based poet said she was “completely overwhelmed” to have won the poetry category.

“I still feel overwhelmed. I feel like it is such a little story, a kind of marginal story, and to have this kind of acknowledgment is astonishing,” she said.

Chinese Fish tells the story of Ping, who migrates from Hong Kong to New Zealand, and her eldest daughter, Cherry, as they both navigate patriarchy, racism, migration and assimilation in the 1960s and 1980s. The judges praised Chinese Fish for how it “intelligently … braids its modes and forms, its feminist vision, and its literary and conceptual sophistication”.

The Victorian prize for literature last went to a work of poetry in 2014, for Liquid Nitrogen by Jennifer Maiden. Yee’s win is the second victory in a row for Giramondo, whose author, Jessica Au, won the Victorian prize for literature last year for her much-lauded novel Cold Enough for Snow.

In other categories, Melissa Lucashenko won the fiction category for her novel Edenglassie, which spans the 19th century to the 21st century in the titular area of Meanjin/Brisbane. The judges praised the novel’s “luminescent truth telling”.

The non-fiction prize went to Ellen van Neerven for their book Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity, which the judges praised as a “groundbreaking book that confirms, once again, Van Neerven’s unrivalled talent, courage and originality”.

This year’s people’s choice award went to The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World by Antony Loewenstein. The book received 39% of all votes cast, with this year’s total tally of 1,567 public votes more than double that of last year.

After almost 30 years, a children’s literature category has been reintroduced, to reward books aimed at children under 12. This year it was won by the fantasy graphic novel Ghost Book by Remy Lai, which the judges called “a memorable interactive reading experience of wide appeal”. Lili Wilkinson won the young adult prize for A Hunger of Thorns, a fantasy novel following a young witch that was praised for its “strong feminist lens”.

Dramatists S Shakthidharan and Eamon Flack won the drama category for their script for The Jungle and the Sea, a Sri Lankan civil war drama first staged at Belvoir St theatre in Sydney, which the judges described as “a rich and essential work of contemporary theatre”.

Lucashenko and Van Neervan wore keffiyehs on stage to accept their awards, with Lucashenko and S Shakthidharan both reading poems by other writers in solidarity with Palestine, and Loewenstein paying tribute to the Palestinian journalists and civilians who have died in the war.

The prize for Indigenous writing was awarded to the ABC arts journalist Daniel Browning for his essay collection Close to the Subject: Selected Works, while the prize for an unpublished manuscript went to debut novel Panajachel by Rachel Morton.

The Victorian premier’s literary awards have been running since 1985.

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2024 Victorian premier’s literary awards: winners list

Victorian premier’s prize for literature: Chinese Fish by Grace Yee (Giramondo Publishing)

Prize for children’s literature: Ghost Book by Remy Lai (Allen & Unwin)

Prize for drama: The Jungle and the Sea by S Shakthidharan and Eamon Flack (Currency Press in association with Belvoir St theatre)

Prize for fiction: Edenglassie by Melissa Lucashenko (University of Queensland Press)

Prize for Indigenous writing: Close to the Subject: Selected Works by Daniel Browning (Magabala Books)

Prize for non-fiction: Personal Score: Sport, culture, identity by Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)

Prize for poetry: Chinese Fish by Grace Yee (Giramondo Publishing)

Prize for writing for young adults: A Hunger of Thorns by Lili Wilkinson (Allen & Unwin)

Prize for an unpublished manuscript: Panajachel by Rachel Morton

People’s choice award: The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World by Antony Loewenstein (Scribe Publications)



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