November has been a pretty amazing month for New Zealand’s literary scene. With two launches of highly anticipated books and the announcement of another to come, it’s a rather exciting time for readers (who now have to make the difficult decision of what to read first). And behind these brilliant works are three talented women whose creative skills and sensibilities are influencing our literary landscape to be more innovative, inclusive, and iconic:
1. Nina Mingya Powles, recipient of the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize.
Nina Mingya Powles is a New Zealand writer/editor/publisher of mixed Malaysian Chinese heritage whose writing is truly arresting in the best way. Her works have been published all across the internet, from Starling literary journal, to POETRY SCHOOL, to The Pantograph Punch. Now, we have a longer work of nature writing - her submission (Small Bodies of Water) for the Nan Shepherd Prize - to look forward to reading when published in August 2021. Described as an exploration of a girlhood spent growing up between two different cultures, this book will no doubt be full of lush imagery, gentle contemplation about issues that matter, and turns of phrase that fill you with wonder.
2. Tayi Tibble, editor of Sport 47.
The announcement that Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui/Ngāti Porou) would be editing this year’s issue of Sport literary journal felt like being handed out a flyer to the coolest literary party of the year. In case you didn’t know - Tayi Tibble is the winner of the prize for best book of poetry for “Poūkahangatus”, and writer of a particularly astute essay on Aotearoa’s skux subculture. If you haven’t grabbed a copy of Sport 47 yet, you won’t have any trouble finding it on the shelves. With a bright pink cover designed by Miriama Grace-Smith that’s as “particularly gang, hot and flossy” as the contents of this issue were intended to be, you can hardly miss it. And you wouldn’t want to.
3. Rose Lu, writer of essay collection All Who Live on Islands.
Last year, I came across an essay of Rose Lu’s published in The Pantograph Punch. In it, she wrote that she wanted “more narratives that don’t come from Pākehā-centric worldviews. I want to hear about the different experiences of being Asian in Auckland, Invercargill and Hawera. I want to know where the model minority stereotype falls flat, I want to know how East Asian privilege affects brown Asians. And most importantly, I want to read about things that I don’t know the existence of yet.” In her first collection of essays All Who Live on Islands, Lu gifts us this - glimpses of her life growing up as a Chinese immigrant in our country, and all the specific challenges that came with this experience. It’s a spectacular mix of endearing, funny, and unapologetic in discussing topics that are still taboo for many Asian families and communities. Rosabel Tan describes reading this collection as “like getting to have yum cha after a long fast”. And there is indeed something deeply fulfilling and heartwarming about the experience of reading this book. It’ll also leave you craving for more.Support Villainesse