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Shortlist for the 2020 UC Book of the Year

14 November 2019

The University of Canberra Book of the Year is an initiative to drive engagement and community for students and staff. All commencing students across the five faculties receive a copy of the book, which is integrated into the curriculum and provides a common conversational topic on campus.

The UC Book of the Year is now in its eighth year, and the 2020 shortlist includes prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors. The winner will be announced at a morning tea on campus on 21 November 2019.

Professor Geoff Crisp, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), encouraged all members of the University community to get involved, “The UC Book of the Year is a creative way to engage with students and really aids in building that sense of community which is invaluable for our commencing students. It’s fantastic that all staff members can take part and I encourage everyone to attend the morning tea to hear the announcement and pick up their free copy”.

The 2020 UC Book of the Year shortlist:

Taboo, by Kim Scott (Pan Macmillan, 2017)

From Kim Scott, two-times winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, comes a work charged with ambition and poetry, in equal parts brutal, mysterious and idealistic, about a young woman cast into a drama that has been playing for over two hundred years ...

Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar's descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife's dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.

Ghost River, by Tony Birch (UQP, 2015)

The highly anticipated new novel from the Miles Franklin-shortlisted author of Blood.

You find yourself down at the bottom of the river, for some it’s time to give into her. But other times, young fellas like you two, you got to fight your way back. Show the river you got courage and is ready to live.

The river is a place of history and secrets. For Ren and Sonny, two unlikely friends, it’s a place of freedom and adventure. For a group of storytelling vagrants, it’s a refuge. And for the isolated daughter of a cult reverend, it’s an escape. Each time they visit, another secret slips into its ancient waters. But change and trouble are coming – to the river and to the lives of those who love it. Who will have the courage to fight and survive and what will be the cost?

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms, by Anita Heiss (Simon & Shuster, 2017)

In 1944, over 1,000 Japanese soldiers break out of the No.12 Prisoner of War compound on the fringes of Cowra. In the carnage, hundreds are killed, many are recaptured, and some take their own lives rather than suffer the humiliation of ongoing defeat. But one soldier, Hiroshi, manages to escape. At nearby Erambie Station, an Aboriginal mission, Banjo Williams, father of five and proud man of his community, discovers Hiroshi, distraught and on the run. Unlike most of the townsfolk who dislike and distrust the Japanese, the people of Erambie choose compassion and offer Hiroshi refuge. Mary, Banjo’s daughter, is intrigued by the softly spoken stranger, and charged with his care. Love blossoms between Mary and Hiroshi, and they each dream of a future together. But how long can Hiroshi be hidden safely and their bond kept a secret?

Mullumbimby, by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP, 2018)

When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours and a looming Native Title war between the local Bundjalung families. When Jo unexpectedly finds love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.

Terra Nullius, by Claire Coleman (Hachette Books, 2017)

Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, re-education is enforced. This rich land will provide for all. This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history.

The 2020 selection panel:

  • Professor Geoff Crisp – DVCA
  • Professor Jen Webb
  • Mr Christian West
  • Mr Ian McHugh – PhD candidate
  • Ms Grace Lucas-Pennington