Skip to main content

Grace, Patricia - Literary papers of Patricia Grace

 Fonds — Multiple Containers
Identifier: grap


  • Creation: 1970s -

Biographical / Historical

Grace, Patricia. 1937-

Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Te Ati Awa.

"Once I’ve finished a book or a story, my job is done. Reviews, analyses, critiques, theses are not written for me . . . What follows – the reading, discussion, dissection, opinion – is part of the next life of the book . . ." (Grace, Patricia. 2021. From the Centre: a writer's life. Penguin Books, NZ, 200).

Patricia Gunson was born in Newtown [St. Helens maternity hospital]. As a child her family lived in the Melrose house built by her father. Her maternal grandmother, two aunts’ and their families lived close by.

Hongoeka on the Kapiti Coast is her safe place, but throughout her life and marriage Patricia has fought the ambitions of councils and companies to obtain this highly desired whenua. Indeed in 1846 along the bay at Tāupo Pa, Te Rauparaha was arrested by Governor Grey, coercing Ngāti Toa into land transactions with the Crown to free him.

Patricia’s whakapapa to Hongoeka is through her paternal grandmother’s line. At 554 acres it is one of the larger papakainga in the Wellington district. Her father was welcomed back there on his return from WWII (as part of 28 Māori Bn) and Patricia’s parents lived there when they were newly married.

Patricia attended Wellington Teachers College 1955-1956 and completed the Probationary Assistant year in 1957. Creative expression and social consciousness were part of Wellington Teachers College as trainees were expected to experience, discuss, and respond to contemporary New Zealand arts, music, and literature. The required reading of Frank Sargeson and Katherine Mansefield led her to other New Zealand writers and the awareness that they wrote what they knew, the self. It was here that the desire to become a writer was born.

She had met fellow student Dick – Kerehi Waiariki Grace, and they were married January 1958 at the St Mary’s of the Angels, Boulcott Street. As a teaching couple within the Country Service, they progressed through various rural schools in Northland, with Patricia working part-time, while raising their family of seven children. She began writing at Tutāmoe; became a country member of the Penwomen’s Society and entered writing competitions and found feedback to be invaluable. At Pakōtai Primary, Patricia discovered that the school pupils’ own poems and stories of their life, worded in their idiom, stapled into small books for display on the classroom wall, were read over and over. This was their foundation for developing reading habits. At the time Little Black Sambo books were the norm in infant class libraries she taught at.

When I first began writing, I knew I wanted to write about the ordinary lives of ordinary people who were Māori, who I knew hadn’t been written about before in fiction – or who were only beginning to be written about (2021, 194).

Patricia became the first wahine Māori writer (in English) to have a manuscript published in 1975 with the short story collection, Waiariki, followed by her first novel Mutuwhenua in 1978.

The move to Porirua with relief teaching work at the College followed by a permanent teaching position meant she wrote mainly in the school holidays and wanted more time to dedicate to it. Her writing would incorporate institutional indifference to Māori cultural beliefs, harassment of Polynesian teens, tamau marriage, the mining of indigenous D.N.A., land issues and land claims etc to create a fictional work in her own voice.

Patricia entered Victoria University and completed the Diploma in the Teaching of English as a Second Language but changing education priorities left her unable to apply it in practice. In 1985 she was successful in her application for Writer in Residence at Victoria University Wellington. She completed her second novel Potiki (1986) and made a strong start on Electric City (1987), ‘At Victoria she had an office and an electronic typewriter which she had to learn to use,’ (2021, 192). During that time, she decided to leave teaching. Potiki has won many literary awards and been translated into several language. In 1989 Patricia was awarded an Honorary DLitt, from Victoria University. Wai-te-ata Press hosted a lunchtime party in 2017 to celebrate her 80th birthday and launch the Italian language edition of Potiki. Hongoeka is the landscape depicted within Potiki, the characters, plot and wharenui are fictional, but its history inspired the story. Patricia, Dick and their children were to settle in Hongoeka Bay and build their whanau home of forty plus years by the sea. As mana whenua they participated in the construction of the wharenui and marae complex that would take many years. Patricia was to comment (2021) that efforts to take Hongoeka stopped after the construction of the wharenui.


500 linear_centimeters

Language of Materials




Mutuwhenua: The Moon Sleeps (Longman Paul, 1978)

Potiki (Penguin Books NZ, 1986)

Cousins (Penguin Books NZ, 1992)

Baby No-eyes (Penguin Books NZ, 1998)

Dogside Story (Penguin Books NZ, 2001)

Tu (Penguin Books NZ, 2004)

Chappy (Penguin Books NZ, 2015)

Short-story collections

Waiariki (Longman Paul, 1975)

The Dream Sleepers (Longman Paul, 1980)

Electric City and Other Stories (Penguin Books NZ, 1987)

Selected Stories (Penguin Books NZ, 1991)

Collected Stories (Penguin Books NZ, 2001)

The Sky People (Penguin Books NZ, 1994)

Small Holes in the Silence (Penguin Books NZ, 2006)

For Children

The Kuia and the Spider / Te Kuia me te Pungawerewere (Kidsarus 2 / Longman Paul, 1981), illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa

Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street / Te Tuna Watakirihi me Nga Tamariki o te Tiriti o Toa (Penguin Books NZ, 1984), illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa

The Trolley / Te Toneke (Penguin Books NZ, 1993), illustrated by Kerry Gemmill

Areta & the Kahawai / Ko Areta me Nga Kahawai (Penguin Books NZ, 1994), illustrated by Kerry Gemmill

Maraea and the Albatrosses / Ko Maraea me Nga Toroa (Penguin Books NZ, 2008), illustrated by Brian Gunson

Haka / Whiti te Rā! (Huia Publishers, 2015), illustrated by Andrew Burdan and translated into Māori by Kawata Teepa

Unte Dem Manukabaum (books of stories selected for young readers and translated into German) 1995


Wahine toa: women of Maori myth paintings and drawings by Robyn Kahukiwa ; text by Patricia Grace. (Collins, 1984)

Wahine toa: Omniscient Māori Women, bilingual (2006)

Ned and Katina: a true love story (Penguin Books NZ, 2009), biography

From the Centre: a writer's life (Penguin Books NZ, 2021), autobiography.


Ockham New Zealand Books Awards for General Non Fiction [finalist] for From the Centre: A Writer’s life (2022)

New Zealand Book Awards for Children & YA, Picture Book Award [finalist] for Haka / Whiti te Rā! (2016)

New Zealand Book Awards for Children & YA, Te Kura Pounamu Award for Haka / Whiti te Rā! (2016)

Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Fiction [finalist] for Chappy (2016)

Honoured New Zealand Writer at the Auckland Writers’ Festival (2014)

Neustadt International Prize for Literature (2008)

Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Literature (2007)

Certificate of Honor from Senate State of Hawai’i for Contributions to Literature (2006).

Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (2006)

Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Awards (2005)

Montana New Zealand Book Awards, Deutz Medal for Fiction for Tu (2005)

Nielson Book Data New Zealand Booksellers’ Choice Award for Tu (2005)

Montana New Zealand Book Awards [finalist] for Dogside Story (2002)

Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for Dogside Story (2001)

Booker Prize [longlist] for Dogside Story (2001)

LiBeraturpreis in Frankfurt (1994)

Queen’s Service Order (1988)

Honorary DLitt, Victoria University (1989)

New Zealand Book Award for Fiction for Potiki (1986)

Goodman Fielder Wattie Book of the Year Award [third] for Potiki (1986)

Victoria University Writing Fellowship (1985)

PEN/Hubert Church Award for Best First Book of Fiction for Waiariki (1976)

Administrative Information

All text and images are copyright to Victoria University of Wellington. Enquiries for re-use should be made in the first instance to the J C Beaglehole Room, VUW Library.

J C Beaglehole Room - archives and manuscripts
Edited Full Draft
Nicola Frean & Sue Hirst
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is written inEnglish
Edition statement
XML EAD edition

Repository Details

Part of the Tapuaka Heritage & Archive Collections - JC Beaglehole Reading Room, Victoria University of Wellington Library Repository

P O Box 3438
Wellington 6140 New Zealand
+64 4 4635681