Skip to content

Introducing Patricia Grace

March 31, 2011

Patricia Grace

Well, who didn’t grow up with The Kuia and the Spider on their bookshelf?! It’s like a Kiwi institution.

She’s certainly easy to research. I’ll get on to checking out some of the academic stuff and summing it up… later.

There has been some work done on illness narratives in her work (from a Maori health model, too – thanks Ann Pistacchi!) and I would like to consider the elders she includes in her fiction – the way she includes the voices of all the generations (older, younger, unborn, ancestral) is great… on which topic:

Check out Ann Pistacchi’s MA thesis and possibly her PhD thesis too (sure to be good and freely available, though I haven’t yet looked).  Good stuff!

Basic Bio

– Born in Wellington in 1937

– of Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Toa and Te Ati Awa descent

– teacher, writer, mother (7 children?)

– winner of multiple awards.

Mutuwhenua (The Moon Sleeps) was Grace’s first novel, and the first to be published by a Maori woman.

Grace on writing:

– “‘People write from their own background and experience,’ says Grace. ‘I didn’t relate to any of the work that was put forward to us at school.  It wasn’t until I discovered that New Zealanders like Frank Sargeson were writing that I realised it could happen here.'” p109 Greg O’Brien and Robert Cross (1988) Moments of Invention; Portraits of 21 New Zealand Writers. Heinemann Reed: Auckland

– “When she first became interested in children’s writing, she was discouraged by publishers who said there was no market for such writing if it had a New Zealand setting.  She was aware there were no books for Maori children and wanted to change preconceptions about the viability of stories set here. The Kuia and the Spider, illustrated by artist Robyn Kahukiwa, was published in 1981 and sold well overseas as well as in New Zealand. ‘I had a problem trying to find an indigenous animal to use in the story – I thought native birds had been overused – and eventually I arrived at the idea of using a spider,’ Grace says.  ‘Spiders and people have weaving in common.  Once I had the idea, the story took only half an hour to write, and I hardly changed a word after that.'”

p110 Greg O’Brien and Robert Cross (1988) Moments of Invention; Portraits of 21 New Zealand Writers. Heinemann Reed: Auckland

“There was a time that I was able to keep up with all New Zealand fiction as it was produced.  This is not so now.  There is a full range of themes, ideas, characters and settings being written.  There certainly is originality.  It is so good to see writing by writers from smaller ethnic communities beginning to appear.  It is only once this happens that our writing is able to be a true reflection of who we are.”  C2, Interviews by Mark Broatch, Karen Tay and Nicola Russell in “Beyond Words” Sunday Star Times, October 4 2009

Check out these sites for more info:

works/bio/etc. (including links to full text works and criticisms) :

her short story Butterflies at:

an interview at:

She’s in the NZ Lit file, where you get an (irregularly?) updated biography (including critical works):

she’s also in te Ara, which as I’ve said before, I list more because I like the site than because there’s heaps of information on this author there:

Academic criticism:

There is quite a bit… So I’ve put some of it (not a complete review, but 4 pages of refs) in a word document. I realise downloads from someone you don’t know is not a certain thing, but I promise I haven’t added anything dodgy myself…

So,if you’re comfortable with a download, here you are: Patricia Grace references


Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer, and Kathryn Walls A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction (Victoria University Press: Wellington, 2011). This work is arranged thematically, so references are scattered throughout.

D’Cruz, Doreen ‘Along “the many-stranded circle”: Narrative spiralling from isolation to homecoming in Patricia Grace’s Cousins’  Journal of Postcolonial Writing Volume 45, Issue 4, 2009, Pages 459 – 471

The Kuia and the Spider

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s