Premier's literary award

Author and illustrator’s ‘dream come true’

Speaking to The AJN, Abramowitz described the nomination as "a dream come true".

Ryan Abramowitz. Photo: Dean Shmideg
Ryan Abramowitz. Photo: Dean Shmideg

The shortlists for the 2024 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced, with Jewish author Ryan Abramowitz’s debut picture book Elegy for an Elephant, which was inspired by the passing of his father to suicide, a finalist for the Glenda Adams Award for New Writing.

Speaking to The AJN, Abramowitz described the nomination as “a dream come true”.

He said he appreciated the recognition that came with being shortlisted after facing many hurdles.

“As the debut picture book of an emerging author, illustrator and micro publisher (Narratives of Nature), together with exploring subject matter that is still somewhat taboo (suicide and its impacts), Elegy has faced some barriers into wider circulation of the Australian publishing landscape. Being shortlisted helps to significantly raise the profile and awareness of Elegy in the Australian literary landscape and beyond. This in turn will help to encourage important conversations about how to best support those mourners who have lost loved ones to suicide – themes that sit at the very heart of what this book aims to platform and raise awareness for.”

Abramowitz observed, “Despite its prevalence, there is little literature to support those who have lost loved ones to suicide. It is into this shortfall that I hope Elegy for an Elephant can be a valued and meaningful addition.”

He also believes this book is for anyone navigating grief. “At its heart, Elegy for an Elephant is about the timeless nature of love, and the ways in which we can always connect with our loved ones beyond the veil.”

Abramowitz thanked the Jewish community and mental health community for their support and said that he is donating 18 per cent of profits to Lifeline, Movember and Support after Suicide, as 18 represents “chai”, meaning life.

The award ceremony will take place at the State Library of New South Wales on May 20, which coincides with the date Abramowitz’s father passed away eight years ago. Abramowitz commented, “Irrespective of whether Elegy wins, my dad’s presence will be vividly felt beneath that Parthenon of literature. The elephant will indeed be in the room and in my heart.”

The NSW Premier Awards have faced controversy this year as anti-Israel activist Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah was a judge for the Premier’s Multicultural NSW Award. Dr Abdel-Fattah was involved in the doxxing of Australian Jewish creatives and recently encouraged children to chant “intifada” at the University of Sydney’s pro-Palestinian encampment.

Senator Dave Sharma said not removing Dr Abdel-Fattah as a judge was a “failure of leadership” on the part of NSW Premier Chris Minns, adding, “In what can only be considered a perverse irony, the Multicultural NSW Award under Dr Abdel-Fattah has been turned into a vehicle for spreading social division and undermining multiculturalism in NSW.”

Among those shortlisted for the Multicultural NSW Award are Sara M Saleh’s Songs for the Dead and Living and Omar Sakr’s Non-Essential work – both authors have been outspoken in their pro-Palestinian advocacy.

Saleh’s book is about a Palestinian family’s escape from Lebanon via Cairo to Australia. Saleh writes in her author’s note, “Every Palestinian has a nakba story.”

Sakr’s Non-Essential Work was described by the judges as “a deeply Muslim collection of poetry, from the astonishment Sakr experiences at finding his Prophet disrespected so utterly in the bowels of Dante’s Inferno, to the reaction to rising anti-Muslim sentiment and rhetoric in the world around him.”

Elegy for an Elephant can be ordered from:

Instagram: @narrativesofnature_

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