A book about living with the long-term effects of sexual abuse has won the Australian Christian Book of the Year.
Child, Arise!: The Courage to Stand is described as a spiritual handbook for survivors of sexual abuse. Using scripture verses and ‘praying the scripture reading’, the book describes the very real emotions triggered by sexual abuse and encourages readers, both victim and survivors and non-victims alike, to journey with the author.
Author Jane N. Dowling described a sense of disbelief at winning the prize.
“What I hope for my book is that it can get into the hands of as many survivors of abuse as possible, because I believe it’s a journey, where one feels a deep hopelessness and despair. And the pain is overwhelming, but I believe that God’s word has a power to transform that pain and suffering into love.”
“I feel overwhelmed; I wouldn’t have thought a year ago that I was going to be here receiving a prize for my writing,” Jane told Eternity.
“It was something that I felt called by God to write and I saw a need, so I was simply trying to respond to that need. But I wasn’t really looking for any sort of public recognition so for me to receive the prize tonight is really overwhelming,” she said.
Her hope, she said, was that the book would reach as many survivors as possible so that they might know the transforming power of God’s word.
“What I hope for my book is that it can get into the hands of as many survivors of abuse as possible, because I believe it’s a journey, where one feels a deep hopelessness and despair. And the pain is overwhelming, but I believe that God’s word has a power to transform that pain and suffering into love,” she said.
During a time of illness, Jane Dowling’s experience compounded, just as then Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Royal Commission into institutional abuse.
“I remember sitting down and listening to that announcement and feeling a great stirring of the holy spirit that all the skills I had received in ministry, the gift of prayer and evangelisation, that came through the word was going to be useful. I felt God calling me to put those skills forward for the benefit of other survivors of sexual abuse,” she said.
Michael Collie, National Director of Sparklit, the organiser of the Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards, said that this year there were strong entries in every category.
“The Australian Christian Book of the Year shortlist was the longest we’ve ever had, it’s very strong … I just could not get the judges to reduce it down to below 10.”
He said the overflowing shortlist was a great testament to the quality of Christian writers in the country despite Christian publishing in Australia still remains tenuous.
“The irony here is that Christian publishing as such in Australia is very fragile and quite weak. Publishers are competing with big companies in the United States that enjoy an economy of scale which doesn’t exist here,” he said.
This year the winner of the Australian Christian Teen Writer Award went to Annie-Jo Vogler for All the Ways We Are. Vogler also won the award in 2014 and her latest book confronts the struggles of adolescence whilst dealing with the unexpected events and complexities of living with an extended family.
Miriam Dale won the award for Young Australian Christian Writer with her collection of poetry, The Weight of Hope. The judges described Dale’s writing as “candid and raw but above all hopeful”.