Fremantle Press writer Yuot A. Alaak said he’s ecstatic and beaming with excitement after learning his book, Father of the Lost Boys, is one of six titles shortlisted for the State Library of New South Wales’ Douglas Stewart Prize worth $40,000.
Father of the Lost Boys tells the story of teacher and community leader Mecak Ajang Alaak who assumed care of thousands of Sudanese Lost Boys in a bid to protect them from becoming child soldiers. Yuot, an eyewitness to events, said, ‘I started school under a tree in a refugee camp. With no pencils or paper, I scribbled alphabets on the ground with my fingers, but I yearned for a pen. In a nation that was awash with guns, my father staunchly believed in the power of the pen over the power of the gun. Winning the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction would be an everlasting tribute to the millions deprived of the pen.’
Yuot said he and his father were honoured by the recognition and blown away by the response from the thousands of Australians who have read the book. He said, ‘I constantly get emails from people that have been touched by the book and have shared it with their loved ones and communities. I am thankful to my publisher, Fremantle Press, for trusting in my voice and my story and for helping me to share it with the world.’
Established to commemorate the lifetime achievement of publishing editor, poet, essayist and literary critic Douglas Alexander Stewart, the prize is awarded to a prose work that displays literary qualities but is not a work of fiction. Biographies, autobiographies and works of history, philosophy and literary criticism may be nominated.
Writers shortlisted alongside Alaak are Miro Bilbrough for In the Time of the Manaroans, Tom Carment for Womerah Lane: Lives and Landscapes, Kate Fullagar for The Warrior, the Voyager and the Artist: Three Lives in an Age of Empire, Patrick Mullins for The Trials of Portnoy: How Penguin Brought Down Australia’s Censorship System, and Pattie Lees and Adam C. Lees for A Question of Colour: My Journey to Belonging brought out by fellow WA publishing house Magabala Books.
The judging panel was Catriona Menzies-Pike, Jane Chi Hyun Park, Sheila Ngoc Pham, Tamson Pietsch and Richard White. The winner will be announced at an online event on Monday 26 April 2021 at 7:30 pm AEDT. For more information about the judges, the award and the shortlisted books go to State Library of New South Wales website.
Father of the Lost Boys was also shortlisted for the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. It is available in all good bookstores and online.