Author(s): Witi Ihimaera
This is the first volume of Witi Ihimaera's enthralling memoir, packed with stories of the formative years of this much-loved writer. Witi Ihimaera is a consummate storyteller - one critic calling him one of our 'finest and most memorable'. Some of his best stories, however, are about his own life. This honest, stirring work tells of the family and community into which Ihimaera was born, of his early life in rural New Zealand, of family secrets, of facing anguish and challenges, and of laughter and love. As Ihimaera tells of the myths that formed his early imagination, he also reveals the experiences from real life that wriggled into his fiction. Alive with an inventive, stimulating narrative and vividly portrayed relatives, this memoir is engrossing, entertaining and moving, but, more than this, it is also a vital record of what it means to grow up Maori.
Since the publication of Pounamu Pounamu in 1972, much of Ihimaera’s best writing has drawn on his formative experiences growing up Maori in a small rural community near Gisborne. In this first volume of autobiography, he turns his outstanding narrative skills on his own life.
Winner Ockham New Zealand Book Awards - General Non-Fiction 2016.
Witi Ihimaera was the first Maori to publish both a book of short stories and a novel, and since then has published many notable novels and collections of short stories. Described by Metro magazine as 'Part oracle, part memoralist, Ihimaera is an inspired voice, weaving many stories together', he has also written for stage and screen, edited books on the arts and culture, as well as published various works for children. His best-known novel is The Whale Rider, which was made into a hugely, internationally successful film in 2002. His novel Nights in the Garden of Spain was also made into a feature film, and was distributed internationally under the name of Kawa. The feature film White Lies was based on his novella Medicine Woman. His first book, Pounamu, Pounamu, has not been out of print in the 40 years since publication. He has also had careers in diplomacy, teaching, theatre, opera, film and television. He has received numerous awards, including the Wattie Book of the Year Award and the Montana Book Award, the inaugural Star of Oceania Award, University of Hawaii 2009, a laureate award from the New Zealand Arts Foundation 2009, the Toi Maori Maui Tiketike Award 2011, and the Premio Ostana International Award, presented to him in Italy 2010. In 2004 he became a Distinguished Companion of the Order of New Zealand (the equivalent of a knighthood). Witi Ihimaera has said that he considers 'the world I'm in as being Maori, not European' and that he writes from this perspective. While much of his fiction is based on fact, it is not strictly autobiographical but is an imaginative recreation of places, people and circumstances. For a period of about 10 years, though, he stopped publishing, feeling that his attempts to capture the emotional landscape of Maori were being perceived as the 'definitive portrayal' of Maoridom. This was from the mid-1970s when there was a resurgence of Maori activism. Receiving the premiere Maori arts award Te Tohutiketike a Te Waka Toi, Ihimaera said, 'To be given Maoridom's highest cultural award, well, it's recognition of the iwi. Without them, I would have nothing to write about and there would be no Ihimaera. So this award is for all those ancestors who have made us all the people we are. It is also for the generations to come, to show them that even when you aren't looking, destiny has a job for you to do.' The Parihaka Woman, 'a fun dash through 19th-century New Zealand, speckled with adventure' (Bay of Plenty Times), was the third bestselling New Zealand fiction work in 2010. Recognised for its 'moments of tender beauty' (The New Zealand Herald) and for being 'richly imaginative and original ... surprising, inventive and deeply moving' it 'confirms Witi Ihimaera as one of New Zealand's finest and most memorable storytellers' (Tararua District Library). With The Thrill of Falling, Ihimaera has taken a new route with his writing, 'full of experimentation and literary derring-do' (John McCrystal, Weekend Herald). The Saturday Express noted that he writes with 'a great combination of the punchiness of a short story, along with more development of character and plot ... creating characters that seem to come alive off the pages', the Otago Daily Times reviewer noting that he weaves references to Maori mythology and New Zealand into his stories in 'an easy, playful and relaxed style, while pulling off twists and brilliant touches'.