Western Sydney University’s literary strength recognised in Miles Franklin shortlist

Miles Franklin Award shortlisted authors, alumnus Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Professor Gail Jones.

Novels by an academic and alumnus of Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Centre have been shortlisted for one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Miles Franklin Award. The Lebs, by Alumnus Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad and The Death of Noah Glass by Professor in Writing Gail Jones named on a list of six novels in the running for the $60,000 prize.

Dr Ahmad, a first-time nominee for the Award, wrote The Lebs (published by Hachette) as part of his PhD at the University’s Writing and Society Research Centre. The coming-of-age novel, which won the Multicultural NSW Award at the 2019 NSW Premier’s Awards, is set in western Sydney and deals with themes such as identity, race relations and masculinity.

The Lebs is also informed by Dr Ahmad’s tireless scholarly research – which made up half of his PhD project. The research project was based on representations of Arab Australian identity and written concurrently with his novel.

Dr Ahmad’s debut novel, The Tribe – which was a prescribed text for literature students at the University, and a prequel to The Lebs – received a 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists of the Year Award. His essays and short stories have also appeared in the Sydney Review of Books, The Guardian, Heat, Seizure, The Lifted Brow, The Australian and Coming of Age: Australian Muslim Stories. He is also founder and director of Sweatshop, a literacy movement in western Sydney devoted to empowering culturally and linguistically diverse artists through creative writing.

Professor Gail Jones is Professor in Writing at the Writing and Society Research Centre. The Death of Noah Glass (published by Text Publishing) is about love and art, about grief and happiness, about memory and the mystery of time. This is the fourth time that Professor Jones has been shortlisted for the Award.

Professor Jones’ work has been translated into sixteen languages and has been awarded several prizes in Australia. She is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking and Sorry. Her prizes include the WA Premier's Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal.

Internationally, her fiction has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the IMPAC Award and the Prix Femina Étranger.

Professor Peter Hutchings, Dean, School of Humanities and Communication Arts, congratulated both authors on their stellar achievement.

“To have an academic and alumnus from Western Sydney University on the shortlist of the nation’s most prestigious literary prize is an incredible achievement, and a strong endorsement of the strength of the literary culture being fostered in Western Sydney,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, author and literary critic, Dr Bernadette Brennan, said: “The 2019 shortlist showcases a diverse and exciting range of Australian voices and experiences. Each writer has been unafraid to take risks in their narrative, in one or more of structure, subject matter or style. These books celebrate, for the most part, some of the complex, disparate and urgent aspects of contemporary Australian life.”

The 2019 winner, to be announced on 30 July, will receive $60,000 in prize money for the novel judged as being ‘of the highest literary merit’ and which presents ‘Australian life in any of its phases’.


3 July 2019

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer