Interview: Dr Yves Rees – 2024 Stella Prize Judge
An interview with award-winning author and academic Yves Rees.
Why is judging the Stella Prize important to you?
I’m a writer and a historian, but first and foremost I’m a reader. Books are the great love of my life. Reading the words of women and gender diverse people has remade the world for me, time and time again. It’s an absolute honour to be tasked with celebrating the new Australian books that make magic on the page.
What’s on your reading pile at the moment?
My book club just read Noor Naga’s If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English, which we all agreed was a tour de force. I’m also, like seemingly everyone, on a Nobel-inspired Annie Ernaux bender, and most recently finished A Girl’s Story (though my fave Ernaux so far is Happening).
This week, I’ve been devouring Mirandi Riwoe’s new historical novel Sunbirds and Rachel Buchanan’s gorgeous history Te Motunui Epa. I’m also excited for my next book club read: Jessica Johns’ Bad Cree. Plus, all the much-anticipated Australian releases coming out over the next few months. Too many books, too little time! Fortunately, the Stella judging gives me the perfect excuse to dive headfirst in the pages.
What’s your favourite independent bookstore, and what do you love most about it?
I adore Neighbourhood Books, my local indie in High Street, Northcote. The team do a brilliant job of supporting local authors, especially during the lockdowns when so many of us had launches and events cancelled. I’m also a big fan of Blarney Books and Art in Port Fairy. The owner, Jo Canham, is a huge champion of queer and trans authors (and also, of course, organises the wonderful Port Fairy Literary Weekend).
When you’re not writing, teaching or reading books, how do you spend your spare time?
Much to the chagrin of my long-suffering friends and family, I have inherited a Wesleyan taste for self-flagellation. This means I choose to spend my leisure time engaged in such puritanical pursuits as marathon running, multi-week hikes and winter open-water swimming. The more suffering, the better! Needless to say, I’m a lot of fun at parties.
Tell us something about yourself that we won’t find on your CV.
I share my tiny apartment with a menagerie composed of two cats (Arabella and Delphi) and Zelda the cavoodle. Zelda is, of course, named after the writer Zelda Fitzgerald. Like her namesake, she’s a social butterfly with charisma to burn. Arabella and Delphi are dignified creatures who look upon Zelda with enormous great disdain.