Patricia Grace is a major New Zealand novelist, short story writer and children’s writer. She is of Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa descent, and is affiliated to Ngati Porou by marriage. Grace began writing early, whilst teaching and raising her family of seven children. Shehas since won many national and international awards, including the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for fiction, the Deutz Medal for Fiction, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (widely considered the most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel). A deeply subtle, moving and subversive writer, Grace received in 2007 a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to literature.
In 1986, Patricia Grace published her novel Potiki, within which she discusses issues surrounding settler land appropriation and the preservation of the Maori culture. Grace was awarded third place for Potiki at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards, and in 1987, the novel won the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction.
The Trolley, written by Patricia Grace and illustrated by Kerry Gemmill, picked up the 1994 Russell Clark Award for illustration.
Baby No-Eyes (1998) is a novel that merges controversial actual events with heartfelt family history, using different voices to interweave family mysteries with contemporary Maori issues. Among these voices are those of a deceased baby who becomes a ‘real’ person in order to interact with family members, and Granny Kura, who tells her story against a background of land occupation.
In Patricia Grace’s novel Dogside Story (2001), the power of the land, the strength of whanau, and the aroha of the community are powerful life-preserving factors. As the narrative unfolds, however, it becomes apparent that there is conflict within the whanau, which reaches breaking point as the new Millennium approaches. Dogside Story won the 2001 $15,000 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for fiction, an award that was announced at the 14th Annual Vancouver International Writers Festival in Canada.
Dogside Story's run of critical acclaim continued in 2001, when it was longlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize. It was also shortlisted in the 2002 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Dogside Story was reissued by Penguin Books in 2005. Kelly Ana Morey reviewed that, in Dogside Story, Grace had created ‘...a magnificent hui of a book that bubbles over with laughter, human frailty, hope and love’ (NZ Listener).
Patricia Grace's next novel was Tu, published by Penguin in 2004. With this narrative, Patricia Grace explores the often terrifying and complex world faced by men of the Maori Battalion in Italy during the Second World War, drawing on the war experiences of her father and other relatives to write an authentic fiction about Maori soldier Tu. As the sole survivor of his family’s campaign, Tu must come to terms with what really happened as the Battalion fought in the hills and valley of Italy – and the truth is contained within the pages of his war journal. The novel received the Deutz Medal for Fiction and Montana Award for Fiction at the 2005 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. It also won the 2005 Nielsen Book Data New Zealand Booksellers' Choice Award.
Patricia Grace was honoured as a living icon of New Zealand art as part of the second biennial Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Awards in 2005.
She also wrote 'Moon Story' for the anthology Myths of the 21st century (Reed, 2006).
In 2006, Grace was awarded $60,000 for fiction at the Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement. Prime Minister Helen Clark said, 'Patricia Grace’s work has played a key role in the emergence of Maori fiction in English. A writer of novels, short stories and children’s fiction her work expresses Maori consciousness and values to a wide international audience.' The annual Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement recognise writers who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature.
As part of the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2007, Grace recieved a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to literature.
Grace has been named the 2008 laureate of the US$50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The honour, administered by the University of Oklahoma and its international magazine World Literature Today, is judged by an international jury and widely considered to be the most prestigious international literary prize after the Nobel. In announcing the 2008 Neustadt laureate, Robert Con Davis-Undiano, Neustadt professor and executive director of World Literature Today said: ‘This award is a landmark recognition of an indigenous writer and gives a strong sense of the direction of important literature in the 21st century.’
Grace beautifully writes a true story of love in wartime and in peace in Ned and Katina (Penguin, 2009).
Patricia Grace was the 2014 Honoured New Zealand Writer at the Auckland Writers Festival.
Grace's latest novel Chappy - her first novel in ten years – was released in 2015. It follows the story of young man (Chappy) who ventures back to New Zealand to reconnect to his Maori culture and ancestry. From Aotearoa, Chappy becomes involved in the international affair of war, making Chappy a powerful demonstration of the ties that Maori have with the wider world. The novel was a finalist in the Fiction section of the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Last updated May 2016.
writers in schools information
KAPAI: Kids' Authors' Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
I live on ancestral land in Hongoeka Bay, Plimmerton. When I say ‘ancestral land’, I mean land that has come down to us through generations, from ancestors. Our community has its own meeting house, Te Heke-mai-raro, which is part of our marae complex.
What sorts of books do you like to read?
I read mainly fiction – novels and short stories.
Who is your favourite author?
I don’t have a favourite author but enjoy books that show people and how they interact with each other, and how they make a way through life.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get ideas from what goes on about me – from what I hear, see, smell, taste, and from all aspects of life. Some ideas come from reading or talking.
What is the best thing about being an author?
One of the best things is meeting with people interested in books.
Some Questions from Primary School Students
Do you have any pets?
I do not have a pet. My mother has a cat called ‘Dollar’. It is mainly black with a big gold spot on its head.
Do you have a favourite colour?
Red and green.
Do you have a favourite food?
Do you have a favourite movie?
A film I enjoyed lately was called The Rabbit Proof Fence.
Do you play any sports or games?
What is the most fun thing about being any author?
Meeting with young people enthused about writing.
How do you make books?
I don’t make books. I write them and the publishers do the rest.
Where do you go for your holidays?
I often go to Tolaga Bay.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
Some friends and I sneaked off to the lunchroom and played table tennis while everyone else was at Benediction.
Some Questions from Secondary School Students
How did you get started?
I began entering writing competitions in local newspapers, then joined a Penwomen’s Club in Auckland and began entering their monthly writing contests.
Who inspired you when you were getting started?
I think I was more influenced by what I read rather than by a particular person.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
Write, write, write and keep writing. Read, read, read and keep reading.
Take opportunities to have your work read or published.
Is it difficult to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?
Is it difficult to make a living as a writer. However there are many positives that make up for low earnings. I have met people I would not otherwise have met, travelled to places I would not otherwise have been to.
What were you like as a teenager?
I loved challenges and like learning. Generally liked to conform, but when it came to sports and physical activity I was a real risk taker.
- There is a bibliography about this author in the Auckland University Library's New Zealand Literature File.
- Dogside Story is featured in the Spring 2001 edition of RED (Reading Entertainment Discussion).
- Toi Maori Aotearoa: profile
- Interviews with NZ Children's Authors at the Christchurch City Libraries website
- Icon Artist 2005
- Honoured NZ Writer 2014: Patricia Grace
- Patricia Grace in conversation with Geoff Walker at the 2014 Auckland Writers Festival
- Metro Magazine Patricia Grace: my friend, my favourite writer, my mother-in-law
- Stuff website New Zealand Book Awards: Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace among finalists
- Review: Patricia Grace's Chappy a nuanced page-turner
- NZ Herald review Patricia Grace: Tu, A Novel
- Radio NZ Patricia Grace - first novel in 10 years, 'Chappy'
- NZ Booklovers review: Chappy by Patricia Grace
- New Zealand Books, a quarterly review: The place where stories begin, Paula Morris
- New Zealand Women's Weekly book review: Chappy