Deborah Cass Prize winner announced

Friday, March 4, 2016
By: 
Writers Victoria

Photo of Moreno Giovannoni reading at a microphone
Moreno Giovannoni. Photo by David Patston.

Moreno Giovannoni was announced as the winner of the inaugural Deborah Cass Writing Prize at an event last night at Writers Victoria.

The Prize was established in honour of Melbourne writer Deborah Cass and aims to aims to help someone from a migrant background find a voice for themselves and be encouraged to finish and publish their work.

Giovannoni took out the prize for a part of the book he is writing called ‘Tales of San Ginese.’

The judges also commended two other writers. Melanie Cheng’s ‘Australia Day’ is about a young woman taking her male Chinese friend home to the farm to meet the family. The judges praised this short story for the poignant situation it describes, its confidence, great detail and nuancing of character.

Emilia Nazari’s piece, ‘The Autumn Limes of Amoo’, is set in a small town in Pakistan where a group of Iranian refugees await resettlement. The judges found this work beautifully written, assured, vivid and disciplined, with strong command of its subject and a fine balance between detail and narrative.

The three pieces were chosen from 56 submissions made by writers of migrant origin, writing in some way about migrant experience.

Judges for the prize were the eminent Australian writers (all of migrant origin themselves) Alice Pung, Christos Tsiolkas and Tony Ayres. Their decisions were unanimous.

The winning entry, from ‘Tales of San Ginese’, is set in an agricultural village in Italy where, according to the author, fatalism rules, God lingers in the minds of its 120 inhabitants, and many dream of California, Argentina or Australia. Some go and come back disillusioned, then wish they had never returned, and those who never leave wish they had.

The judges awarded the prize to Giovannoni for its evident quality of writing, describing it as whimsical without being sentimental, inventive without being precious. The judges agreed that while it seems to take real stories from life, the writing also captures in a humorous, ironical voice something delicate but intangible about loss, nostalgia and home.

Seven other writers were shortlisted for the prestigious fellowship:

  • Sanaz Fotouhi – Scent of Sousan and Yasaman (Iran)
  • Fatima Sehbai – Losing my religion (Pakistan)
  • Tito Ambyo – A Peci for Mamadou (Indonesia)
  • Maha Sidaoui – One Arabian Night (Lebanon)
  • Magdalena McGuire – The Shape of Your Song (Poland)
  • Rumiko Commons – Peacekeeper (Japan)
  • Christine Lambrianidis – The Debt (Greece)

About Deborah Cass

The granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, Deborah Cass became a prize-winning professor of International Law at the London School of Economics. On learning that she had cancer, Deborah left her academic career to focus on creative writing. She had a number of short fiction pieces published, but was unable to realise her aim to complete a novel.

For more information, visit the Deborah Cass Prize website.

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