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Young Jewish authors honoured in inaugural shortlist

The shortlisted books come from a range of genres: poetry, young adult fiction, memoir and a healthcare how-to.
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
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Illustration of a trophy next to four shortlisted book titles

Illustration: TJI

Published: 4 July 2024

Last updated: 5 July 2024

The shortlist for the inaugural Young Jewish Writers Award has been revealed, with four notable authors representing a diverse range of literary topics and styles.

The award, sponsored by The Jewish Independent, is part of the new Australian Jewish Book Awards created by not-for-profit Shalom to recognise excellence in contemporary Jewish Australian writing.

“We were delighted to receive such an array of entries into the inaugural Shalom Australian Jewish Book Awards across many genres and are incredibly proud to announce the young writer’s award shortlist today. We created this award with TJI to support and invigorate our young Australian Jewish authors,” said Anna Stern, Shalom's deputy director of programs who initiated the project.

“We hope this award promotes their writing to new audiences and inspires a new generation of writers.”

The award was open to fiction, non-fiction and book chapters on a Jewish theme published in 2023 by a Jewish author aged 18-40. The shortlist was selected by a panel of three judges including critic and interviewer, Tali Lavi; writer and critic, Jonathan Seidler; and TJI’s events manager, Sharon Berger.

TJI’s publisher Uri Windt said sponsoring a book award was well-matched to the organisation’s mission, and is “thrilled to help promote young authors and advance their careers through this opportunity”.

“As a media organisation we are acutely aware of the power of words. Books and culture are as important as bricks and mortar. The breadth of works submitted is a tribute to the resilience of young authors, and the depth of talent in our community,” Windt said.

The winner will receive $5,000 and an on-stage interview at the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival as part of the award ceremony in August.

The Jewish Independent Young Jewish Writers Award shortlist includes:

The Jewish Independent

1. Mood by Roz Bellamy

Researcher and author Roz Bellamy’s debut memoir Mood powerfully explores the intersection between mental illness, Jewish and queer identities and intergenerational trauma. The first-generation Jewish Australian, who identifies as non-binary, candidly tackles heavy ideas that are perfectly suited to our times – from the toll of antisemitism in the classroom as a young teacher, to the impact of therapy and the development of self-love, and the role of commitment in building a relationship.

Mood was longlisted for the 2020 Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award and an excerpt of the memoir was previously shortlisted for the Scribe Nonfiction Prize.

Bellamy’s writing has appeared in leading publications including The Conversation, Huffington Post, Meanjin, SBS, and Overland, as well as in the anthologies Growing up Queer in Australia and Living and Loving in Diversity. They also recently completed a PhD investigating the impacts of engaging in life writing on the mental health and wellbeing of young LGBTQIA+ people.

The Jewish Independent

2. Anxious in a Sweet Store by Anna Jacobson

Anna Jacobson is an award-winning writer and artist from Brisbane. Her highly-anticipated second illustrated poetry collection, Anxious in a Sweet Store, is a whimsical, inventive and intimate account of trauma, mental illness and the health care system. As if in a candy store, readers are invited to pick-and-choose their experience – whether that is reading from start to finish or dipping in and out of the collection – to devour themes of food, anxiety, relationships and culture.

Jacobson’s first full-length poetry collection, Amnesia Findings, won the 2018 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. In 2020, she won the Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Writing, was awarded a Queensland Writers Fellowship, and shortlisted in the Spark Prize. As an artist, Jacobson has exhibited throughout Australia, and has been a finalist in the Brisbane Portrait Prize, Blake Art Prize and Marie Ellis Prize for Drawing.

The Jewish Independent

3. We Need to Talk About Ageing by Melissa Levi

Clinical psychologist Melissa Levi has distilled a decade of experience supporting over 1,000 Australians to navigate the ageing journey into her non-fiction book, We Need to Talk About Ageing.

Specialising in older people’s mental health, dementia and the ageing process, Levi unpacks common fears and burning questions through practical strategies, expert information, tips and discussion points. The result is a comprehensive guide that will empower Australians to have big conversations about ageing and take control of their future.

In addition to her book, Levi developed a complementary online platform, Talking Ageing, which houses resources she longed for her own family when her grandfather was diagnosed with dementia. She has worked for St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, is a honorary clinical fellow at the University of Technology Sydney and co-authored The St Vincent's Hospital Handbook of Clinical Psychogeriatrics.

The Jewish Independent

4. So That Happened…But Maybe You Already Knew That by Tami Sussman

The hysterical and heart-warming, So That Happened…But Maybe You Already Knew That, is all about helping young people build resilience and become a good friend.

Tackling themes of friendship, family and identity, Tami Sussman’s debut novel follows protagonist Natalie, who in turning 12-years-old is preparing for her bat mitzvah, primary school graduation and the prospect of getting a boyfriend for the first time – all while managing big changes to her family.

With a background in theatre, comedy, spoken word poetry and copywriting, Sydney-based Sussman is a creative jack of all trades. She has written for a variety of online publications, including Hey Alma, SBS and Mamamia, and is one half of The Jewish Independent’s Ashamed to Admit podcast. Sussman is also a celebrant and children’s book author.

Find out more about the Shalom Australian Jewish Book Awards online.

About the author

Ruby Kraner-Tucci

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist and assistant editor of TJI. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Time Out, Law Society Journal and Dumbo Feather Magazine. She previously reported on the charity sector as a journalist for Pro Bono News and undertook internships at The Australian Jewish News and Broadsheet Media.


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The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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