This week, I read and reviewed Manisha Jolie Amin’s debut novel Dancing to the Flute for lip mag. Jolie Amin is an Australian author born in Australia and has lived here her whole life. Yet her parents are Indian and Dancing to the Flute is a book set almost entirely in India. There is no mention of Australia in the book.
Would you consider this book to be Australian? If the book was deemed good enough, would it be nominated for the Miles Franklin Award, or would it be disqualified on the grounds that it is not an Australian novel, despite the fact it was written by an Australian in Australia?
I must admit, I’m not sure where I stand in this case. I do think it should be classified as an Australian novel, yet one of the criteria for the Miles Franklin Award is that ‘[the] prize shall be awarded for the Novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases …’ Dancing to the Flute certainly does not fulfil these requirements. It is also interesting to note that the winning author of the Miles Franklin Award need not be Australian, so long as they have written a novel about Australian life. Only once (English writer Matthew Kneale for English Passengers in 2001) has a non-Australian been nominated for the award.
There are, of course, other literary awards in Australia for which the criteria are not so strict. But it’s interesting to consider the place of Australian writers who write outside the characters and cities of Australia within Australian literature.