Top 12 Kiwi Authors for International Students to Know and Read
These are the Kiwi authors that everyone should know about and read! Their writing captures the spirit of Aotearoa and its people.
1. Witi Ihimaera, DCNZM QSM
Most known for his novel (and subsequent 2002 film version) The Whale Rider (1987), Ihimaera was the first Māori writer to publish both a book of short stories and a novel. Born in Gisborne in 1944, Witi is a novelist, short story writer, anthologist and librettist and worked at the University of Auckland as a Professor and Distinguished Creative Fellow in Māori Literature, before retiring from this position in 2010. His most recent work The Parihaka Woman was published in 2011.
2. Margaret Mahy, ONZ
The legendary children’s writer and celebrated novelist of young adult novels passed away in 2012, but her legacy lives on in her large catalogue of over 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories Before becoming a full-time writer in 1980, Mahy worked as a librarian in Wellington and Christchurch. Mahy won many awards for her writing, both nationally and internationally, including the highest literary award a writer of Children’s books can receive – the ‘Hans Christian Andersen Award’, in 2006. Mahy’s most popular books were A Lion in the Meadow, The Haunting, The Changeover and Memory. In 2013, the top prize for young adult fiction at the New Zealand Children's Book Awards was renamed the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award. The Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award, is another New Zealand literary award named after her and is presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to children's literature. She also has a playground named after her in Christchurch.
3. Maurice Gee
The accomplished writer of Plumb (1978) and Under the Mountain (1979) recently released a three-part memoir called Memory Pieces (2018). His book In My Father’s Den (1972) was made into a feature film in 2004 and that same year he received a $60,000 Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement for fiction and an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from the University of Auckland. Maurice was born in Whakatane in 1931, was raised in Henderson and currently lives in Nelson.
4. Patricia Grace, DCNZM, QSO
She has been writing Māori fiction in English since the 1970’s and is one of the country’s major novelist’s. In her late 20’s she moved to Plimmerton, Wellington and continued to write while raising her seven children. Her first book, Waiariki (1975), the first short story collection by a Māori woman writer, won the PEN/Hubert Church Award for Best First Book of Fiction. Grace’s most recent novel is Chappy (2015). She is known for writing stories of Māori life and people that highlight significant cultural values. She received the 'Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award' in 2005.
5. Katherine Mansfield
Born in Wellington in 1888, Mansfield wrote short stories, leaving New Zealand at the age of 19 and forming friendships with other popular writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. She has left behind a legacy, with schools across the country naming ‘houses’ after her. Her former home can be visited on Tinakori Road, Thorndon, Wellington, next to a garden dedicated to her, and a fellowship is offered annually for the recipient to travel to France to work at her home, the Villa Isola Bella. As she was most famous for her short stories, the NZ Short Story Award is named after her. Her most notable work is the collection of short stories she completed just before her death of tuberculosis - The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922).
6. Janet Frame, ONZ CBE
Nene Janet Paterson Clutha, publishing under the name ‘Janet Frame’, was a New Zealand author who is famous not only for her incredible writing, but for her personal history and battles with mental illness as well. She was born in Dunedin in 1924 and spent a large amount of time at psychiatric hospitals after a childhood marred by the deaths of her adolescent sisters. Following a seven-year period in Europe, Frame returned home in 1963 and authored three volumes of autobiography (To the Is-land, An Angel at my Table and The Envoy from Mirror City). Each part was released a year after the other (1983, 1984 and 1985). The three parts were combined to create the feature film An Angel at My Table (1990), by Kiwi director Dame Jane Campion, DNZM. All three parts have since been collected into a single edition with a foreword by Jane Campion and named An Angel at my Table (2000).
7. Keri Hulme
Born in Christchurch in 1947, Hulme wrote the bone people (1984) while working as a tobacco farmer, Woolworths checkout operator, woollen-mill winder, fish-and-chips cook, postie and a journalist/television production trainee. It was her debut novel and, incredibly, it won the Man Booker Prize in 1985, which meant Keri was the first New Zealander to win the prestigious award. Over thirty years later it remains Keri’s only novel, her follow-ups ‘twinned-novels’ Bait and On the Shadow Side are still in progress.
8. Eleanor Catton
Born in Canada in 1985, Catton moved to Christchurch with her family when she was six years old. The youngest author to ever win the Man Booker prize, her 845-page novel The Luminaries is also the longest work to win the prize in its history. Catton is currently working in Auckland and transforming her 2013 novel into a television mini-series to be released this year. Her debut novel, The Rehearsal, is also regarded highly.
9. Lloyd Jones
Jones was born in Wellington in 1955 and attended both Hutt Valley High School and Victoria University of Wellington. Lloyd’s most famous work is Mister Pip (2006), which won several illustrious prizes and awards, including the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award and the 2007 Montana Medal for fiction. Other notable works are The Book of Fame (2001) and his most recent novel, The Cage (2018).
10. Michael King, OBE
Born in Wellington in 1945, Michael was a New Zealand popular historian, biographer and author who wrote and edited over 30 books on NZ topics. He was best-known for the Penguin History of New Zealand, which was the most popular book of 2004, the year in which King was tragically killed in a car crash aged 58. King’s son Jonathan would go on to direct, write and produce the film version of Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain in 2009.
11. Alan Duff
Duff is the author of popular Kiwi book Once Were Warriors (1990), which was also made into a film of the same name in 1994. He was born and raised In a State housing area in Rotorua in 1950 and used his rough upbringing as inspiration for his novels. Duff is the grandson of writer and foundation editor of the New Zealand Listener Oliver Duff. He credits his father (Gowan) as the inspiration behind ‘Duffy Books in Homes’, which was set-up to deliver brand new books to over 100,000 NZ children three times a year.
12. Bill Manhire
Born in 1946, Manhire was New Zealand’s inaugural Poet Laureate (appointed to represent New Zealand’s community of poets) in 1997. He has won the New Zealand Book Awards poetry prize five times. As well as his poetry prize wins, Bill has also won every major writing award in New Zealand, including the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement, the Katherine Mansfield Award, and the Montana Book Award. His most recent work Some Things to Place in a Coffin was published in 2017 and in 2018 he was awarded the ‘Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award’. His most popular work was 100 New Zealand Poems (1993), which was expanded to 121 New Zealand Poems in 2005. He taught creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington for over thirty years, including a famous ‘Original Composition’ course and in 2008 he established NZ’s first PhD programme in creative writing. He retired from Victoria in 2013.
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