Ockham New Zealand Book Awards’ top fiction prize goes to Whiti Hereaka

The winners of this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards have just been announced in Auckland.

Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka won the prize for fiction, Vincent O'Malley won the general non-fiction award for Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa and Joanna Preston won the poetry award for Tumble.

Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka won the prize for fiction, Vincent O’Malley won the general non-fiction award for Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa and Joanna Preston won the poetry award for Tumble. Photo: Supplied

Wellington novelist and playwright Whiti Hereaka has taken out the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction winning $60,000 for her book Kurangaituku. The novel is a contemporary retelling of the traditional Te Arawa story Hatupatu and the Bird-Woman, told from the perspective of the ‘monster’ Kurangaituku.

The fiction category’s convenor of judges, Rob Kidd, described Kurangaituku as “an extraordinary novel, unashamedly literary and utterly innovative”.

“Kurangaituku is poetic, intense, clever and sexy as hell. It’s also an important novel. A game changer,” he said in a statement.

Canterbury poet Joanna Preston won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry for her second collection Tumble which encompasses myth and magic, including Vikings, astronauts and fallen angels.

“Simply written, yet dramatic and powerfully eloquent, each poem in this book is a banger,” poetry category convenor Saradha Koirala said in a statement.

Author and senior curator at Te Papa Claire Regnault won the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction for her book Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910.

Category convenor Chanel Clarke said even those who do not think they are interested in clothes and fashion will be seduced by the book.

Historian Vincent O’Malley won the general non-fiction award for Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa.

The judges said O’Malley’s book paid greater attention to wahine than earlier historians had and dealt carefully with contested events.

The poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction category award winners each took home a $10,000 prize.

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