Indian-Australian writer wins $30k prestigious Multicultural NSW Literary Award

It is a reminder that differences are mutually enriching when they are encountered without hierarchy or judgment but rather acceptance and respect.

‘Stay for Dinner’ written by Sandhya Parappukkaran and illustrated by Michelle Pereira (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing) has won the prestigious Multicultural NSW Award ($30,000) at at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2024.

This award is offered for work that considers aspects of cultural diversity and multiculturalism in Australian society.

The judges observed: “Sandhya Parappukkaran and Michelle Pereira present a gorgeous food and cultural safari for children that is as much about appreciating and embracing the diverse ways families share a meal together, as it is a reminder that differences are mutually enriching when they are encountered without hierarchy or judgment but rather acceptance and respect.”

Sandhya Parappukkaran, author of 'Stay For Dinner'; Image Source: Supplied
Sandhya Parappukkaran, author of ‘Stay For Dinner’; Image Source: Supplied

“The result is a story that will have you grinning from the first page and ravenous by the last!”

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Sandhya left her job as a Food Technologist to be a full-time writer and pursue her passion for children’s books. She writes stories that are inspired by her childhood experiences traversing different cultures and are steeped in themes of ‘embracing your cultural identity’.

Sandhya lives in Brisbane with her husband, three children and a backyard brimming with mango trees, curry leaves and green chillies.

Sandhya’s books are inspired by her Kerala and Indian heritage which feature heavily when she sits down to write.

Her debut picture book, The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name, won the 2022 Children’s Book Council of Australia New Illustrator Award. Her second picture book, Amma’s Sari, was released on 30th March, 2022. Amma’s Sari is a 2023 CBCA Notable book and a finalist in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. 

Sandhya, Michelle and Hello Bright Light Books created their third picture book that celebrates culture and connection through food – Stay for Dinner.

“Stay for Dinner is an exuberant, captivating celebration of family and friends and the fabulous feasts between them,”

the judges observed.

The book tells the story of Reshma who loves ‘squishing splashy curry through layers of rice’ with her hands during dinnertime with her loving family. But Reshma is self-conscious about what her friends would think of her family eating with their hands, licking food off their fingers and burping their appreciation at the table.

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Additionally, Michelle’s delightful illustrations evoke everyday suburban multi-culture in all its gloriously familiar details: playing sports with friends after school, staying back late and gathering around dinner tables laden with various cuisines and culinary rituals.

Other winners at the awards include poet Ali Cobby Eckermann who won the top $40,000 prize of Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for her “stunning” verse novel She Is the Earth, Angela O’Keeffe, who won the $40,000 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction with her second novel The Sitter.

Australian American journalist Christine Keneally who won the $40,000 prize for non-fiction with her exposé of abuse in Catholic orphanages, Ghosts of the Orphanage; and Aboriginal poet and artist Tais Rose Wae, who won the $30,000 prize for poetry with her debut collection Riverbed Sky Songs.

Full list of winners

Book of the Year ($10,000)

She Is the Earth by Ali Cobby Eckermann (Magabala Books)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)

The Sitter by Angela O’Keeffe (UQP)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction ($40,000)

Ghosts of the Orphanage by Christine Kenneally (Hachette Australia)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)

Riverbed Sky Songs by Tais Rose Wae (Vagabond Press)

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)

Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment by Levi Pinfold (Walker Books Australia)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)

The Quiet and the Loud by Helena Fox (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)

Sex Magick by Nicholas Brown (Griffin Theatre Company/Currency Press)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)

Safe Home, Episode 1 by Anna Barnes (Kindling Pictures)

Indigenous Writers’ Prize ($30,000)

She Is the Earth by Ali Cobby Eckermann (Magabala Books)

Multicultural NSW Award ($30,000)

Stay for Dinner by Sandhya Parappukkaran, illustrated by Michelle Pereira (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($10,000)

Anam by André Dao (Penguin Random House Australia)

University of Sydney People’s Choice Award ($5,000)

The God of No Good by Sita Walker (Ultimo Press)

The winners, chosen from shortlists announced earlier this month, were announced last night at the State Library of NSW. This year the awards received 834 entries across 12 prize categories.

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are the country’s longest-standing and richest state-based literary awards. The Awards recognise the best Australian writers, including novelists, poets, playwrights, scriptwriters and authors of non-fiction and children’s books.

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