From The Centre: A Writer’s Life – Patricia Grace

READ FOR NZ BOOK AWARDS

The memoir of writer Patricia Grace

❝Patricia Grace is a stalwart of New Zealand literature and someone whose work I have read a lot of and deeply admired. So her memoir was always going to be a hit for me.

Through this memoir, not only did I get to re-live the books I’ve enjoyed and discover more about how they came to be, I also learnt more about Grace herself. In particular how she has been a staunch advocate of equal treatment for all, and of morals in literature. She relays these hurdles with humility and grace and allows the reader to form their own opinions on the events that make up her past.

We learn that as a primary school teacher, Grace moved about the country, working in many small, rural settings. From here her desire to write traditional stories for children was harnessed. Yet not only was she happy to have been published, she insisted on Te Reo versions too, refused to add glossaries of the Reo words in the English versions and challenged the damaging stereotypes of Māori she found in other published works. This memoir demonstrates how much time and effort she spent in normalising the use of Te Reo Māori in literature and shows we have so much to be grateful to her for. Who knows where the acceptance of Reo in fiction would be now if it wasn’t for her standing up for it all those decades ago.

The book is not just about a writer. It is about a woman. And a Māori person. As expected, 80 years lived as all of these things is going to incite many anecdotes that range across the spectrum of emotion. The racism inherent in New Zealand back when Grace was a young woman was at its worst and she relays this, emphasising how it was wrong, yet analysing it so it becomes a learning experience which we can all take from as we hope and strive for better.

The book has beautiful photographs and quotes from her books, too, which reinforce her connection to the language, the land and the people for whom she wrote.

An important book that is much about our history as it is about hers. – Rachel

———

Published 2021
Penguin
305 books

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