University of Auckland: Vital new voice wins big creative writing prize

De Silva is a Sri Lankan Pākehā writer and creative based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She co-hosts podcast and video series Conversations With My Immigrant Parents and acts for stage and television. An excerpt of her essay ‘Mitzi’ was published in A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (2021).

During her masters year she worked on Amma, a novel about three generations of South Asian women and the journeys they take away from their homes and towards each other. Its settings include Singapore in the 1950s, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Invercargill in the 70s, Hamilton in the 90s and contemporary Melbourne and London.

She was awarded first-class honours for the manuscript, with examiner Alison Wong saying: “De Silva has written complex characters and relationships with acute observations of the migrant experience, of trauma, pathos, racism and isolation, humour and place. Amma is a compelling read.”

She is a fresh and vital voice in New Zealand literature, and it’s unsurprising the manuscript is already attracting attention from agents and publishers, here and overseas.
Associate Professor Paula Morris
Faculty of Arts
Internal examiner Associate Professor Selina Tusitala Marsh describes Amma as an “intergenerational family drama” which is “imaginative and original”, with “convincing, multi-layered” characters and settings drawn with “vivid, concrete cultural and historical details”.

Master of Creative Writing course director, Associate Professor Paula Morris, says this major new prize will enable Saraid to complete a superb novel.

“She is a fresh and vital voice in New Zealand literature, and it’s unsurprising the manuscript is already attracting attention from agents and publishers, here and overseas.”

The Crystal Arts Trust was founded in 2021 by James and Rosetta Allan to support literature, music and visual art.

Rosetta Allan is a graduate of the Master of Creative Writing programme (2017) and has published both poetry and novels. The trust also supports an MCW scholarship and is the new funder of the best first book prizes at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

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