Ben Brown (Ngati Mahuta, Ngati Koroki, Ngati Paoa) is an acclaimed writer, poet, performer and publisher who lives in Lyttelton, New Zealand. Born in Motueka, New Zealand, in 1962, he has previously worked as a tobacco farm labourer, market gardener and tractor driver, and has been writing and publishing since 1992.
Brown is the author of an evocative memoir, A Fish in the Swim of the World, a number of children’s books, non-fiction works, and short stories for children and adults, many of which have strong New Zealand nature themes.
Many of his children’s books are illustrated by the Lyttelton author and illustrator Helen Taylor. Their te reo edition of Fifty-Five Feathers — Nga Raukura Rima Tekau Ma Rima — (2004) was shortlisted for the 2005 LIANZA Book Awards; the English-language edition was shortlisted for the 2005 Russell Clark Award. A Booming in the Night won Best Picture Book at the 2006 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and was a 2006 Storylines Notable Picture Book.
The New Zealand Post judges report described A Booming in the Night as ‘a captivating, polished and deceptively simple package — a pictorially stunning book with an educational message that also manages to capture the cheeky personality of one of our endangered bird species’. The book also made the 2006 Storylines Notable Picture Book list.
Denis Welch, reviewing the autobiographical A Fish in the Swim of the World in The New Zealand Listener, found it ‘a cut above most autobiographies, giving us a vivid picture of hard-working rural life and a wonderful portrait gallery of farm people and family characters'. The book has been recorded by, and aired on, Radio NZ National.
Brown has said of his memoir: ‘A Fish in the Swim of the World operates on the premise that ordinary people have worthwhile and interesting stories to tell. Characters and events that shape them seem somehow within reach. We can empathise with them. We can engage. There is the notion that a life lived in a certain way has meaning, has significance, though it may not change the world, nor even ripple its waters. And there is a desire to explore a uniquely New Zealand experience within these ideas.’
Brown was awarded the 2011 Maori Writers’ Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre.`
In 2020 Brown delivered a lecture titled If Nobody Listens Then No One Will Know for the annual Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Panui and edited How the F* Did I Get Here, an anthology of poetry written by young people at an Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice Residence facility, who had taken part in his writing workshop.
In 2021 Ben Brown was appointed as the inaugural Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people, a role which advocates for and champions the importance of reading in the lives of young New Zealanders, their whanau, and communities.