Eda Gunaydin has won the Non-Fiction Award in this year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for her debut essay collection Root & Branch: Essays on Inheritance.
The prize, worth $25,000, was awarded last night at a ceremony hosted by the Wheeler Centre at Fed Square’s The Edge in Melbourne. The judges said of Gunaydin’s much-anticipated debut that it ‘truly exceeds expectations’.
‘In both its content and form,’ they said, ‘this book delivers a sharp slap to the complacencies and hypocrisies of Australian culture. The result is a gift: intellectually rigorous yet always passionate, deadly earnest but also terrifically funny. Root & Branch confirms Gunaydin as one of our most astute and necessary cultural critics.’
Root & Branch is a searing work exploring class, capital, race, gender and violence, intergenerational trauma and diaspora. Exquisitely written, it brings together life writing and cultural criticism, incorporating untranslated Turkish into the text, to unsettle neat descriptions of inheritance, belonging and place. Eda Gunaydin’s essays ask: what are the legacies of migration, apart from loss? And how do we find comfort in where we are?
‘I often joke that I’ve never won anything in my life, so to win the VPLA in non-fiction feels both immense and very unexpected.’
‘As I endeavour to point out throughout Root & Branch, labour is not a thing that is often rewarded, fairly or at all. Many of us work and toil and don’t get to win anything on the other side. This is a very rare thing,' said Gunaydin.
'But, I think, my book also argues that we better appreciate the pleasures of life while they’re here and while we’re still breathing, so in that spirit, I am so grateful to get to experience this, which has been made possible because of my wonderful publisher, friends and community. I am particularly humbled to have been listed alongside a cohort of some of the sharpest non-fiction writers working today.’
‘To work with an intellect and wit like Eda’s is exhilarating and humbling at every level. Root & Branch is a phenomenal book – tender and insistent, sparkling and unexpected,’ said NewSouth Publisher Harriet McInerney.
‘Our team is thrilled to see Eda Gunaydin’s distinctive book acknowledged in these awards. We appreciate this recognition of her finely-tuned essays about our times,’ added UNSW Press CEO Kathy Bail.
Gunaydin is a Turkish-Australian essayist and researcher, whose writing has appeared in the Sydney Review of Books, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow, among others. She has been a finalist for a Queensland Literary Award and the Scribe Nonfiction Prize. Root & Branch is her debut essay collection and is available now.