Kgshak Akec has been shortlisted in the 2023 Miles Franklin Literary Award for her debut novel Hopeless Kingdom.
Kgshak is the youngest person and only debut author to be shortlisted for this years' award. Her novel Hopeless Kingdom won UWA Publishing's Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2021.
The shortlist of 6 includes Robbie Arnott's Limberlost, Jessica Au's Cold Enough for Snow, Shankari Chandran's Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, Yumna Kassab's The Lovers, Fiona Kelly McGregor's Iris and Kgshak Akec's Hopeless Kingdom. All the shortlisted authors have all been awarded $5000 courtesy of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and are in the running for the $60,000 winning prize.
The judges have labelled Hopeless Kingdom as a “novel of national significance which gives voice to silent memories of migration and ultimately transforms the Australian literary landscape."
The full judge's comments:
'In her impressive and expansive debut Hopeless Kingdom, Kgshak Akec masterfully weaves a story about a family searching for refuge and belonging. The story deftly unfolds through the interchanging voices and perspectives of eight-year-old Akita and her mother, Taresai, who travel from Sudan to Cairo, Sydney, and eventually a new home in Geelong. Grounded in Akec’s own experience of migration from Africa to Australia, Hopeless Kingdom honours deeply the daring agencies of women and girls who attempt to hold their families together during life-altering periods of upheaval and displacement. Criss-crossing boundaries of time and place, intergenerational trauma travels with Akita’s family to Geelong, and viscerally reverberates as the noisy backdrop to their new life in Australia, their experiences of racism, complex family relationships and the unending love for family who, in their grief and despair, cause great pain. Akec’s astute and powerful storytelling explores complex narratives of resilience and precariousness, and immerses the reader into the lived experiences of young women who attempt to determine their lives for themselves and free themselves from bounds of class, gender and race. Sounding with humanity and hope, Hopeless Kingdom is a novel of national significance which gives voice to silent memories of migration and ultimately transforms the Australian literary landscape.'
According to the judges, 'The 2023 Miles shortlist celebrates six works that delve deeply into archives and memory, play confidently with style and structure and strike new grounds in language and form. From deeply immersive tales to polished jewels of craft, from lyrical mappings of land to convention-breaking chronicles, this is novel-writing at its freshest and boldest.'
Congratulations to Kgshak and all the shortlistees! The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Sydney in July 2023.
Buy a copy of Hopeless Kingdom.
Akita’s family have always kept moving to survive. Sudan to Cairo. Cairo to Sydney. Sydney to Geelong.
Each new place challenges Akita, her siblings and her parents. Just when eight-year-old Akita is feeling settled for the first time in her life, her parents decide to relocate to Geelong. The move is the beginning of a downward spiral that threatens to unravel the fabric of their family and any hope for finding peace and belonging. Told through the interchanging perspectives of Akita and her mother, Taresai, this coming of age story shines a light on the generational curses of trauma, complex family dynamics, and how it feels to love someone unconditionally, even when it hurts. Individually, the female narrators experience racism, rejection and despair, but together their narratives reveal a resilience of spirit and determination to transcend expectations of what a daughter, a sister, and a mother can be. Hopeless Kingdom gives a voice to the silent heartache of searching for acceptance in an adopted society which can’t look past the surface of skin colour.
Hopeless Kingdom is the winner of the 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award. Inspired by the author’s own experience of migration from Africa to Australia, this story signals a powerful new voice in Australian writing.