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About the book
  • Published: 7 November 2014
  • ISBN: 9781869797263
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $40.00
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Maori Boy

A Memoir of Childhood




This is the first volume of Witi Ihimaera's enthralling, award-winning memoir, packed with stories from the formative years of this much-loved writer.

This is the first volume of Witi Ihimaera's enthralling, award-winning memoir, packed with stories from 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 recounts 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.


Winner of the Ockham New Zealand Book Award 2016 for the General Non Fiction category.

  • Pub date: 7 November 2014
  • ISBN: 9781869797263
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $40.00

About the Author

Witi Ihimaera

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,’ and ‘an inspired voice, weaving many stories together’, Ihimaera 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. And his novel Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies inspired the 2016 feature film Mahana. 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. In 1993 Ihimaera spent a year in France on the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship. 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.’

Ihimaera is a respected commentator on Maori, Pacific and indigenous peoples' affairs, and has been instrumental in ensuring Maori art and literature is supported.


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’.

Also by Witi Ihimaera

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Praise for Maori Boy

“. . . a rich, powerful, multi-layered and totally unique story that leaves us with such a strong sense of what it means firstly to be Maori; and secondly, to be Maori growing up in a Pakeha world. For this reason, it is something every New Zealander should read. What comes through is a strong sense of identity and to know Witi is to know his whakapapa and also our country.”

Gisborne Herald

“Maori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood is a big book in many ways. Literally so, because, at 370 pages plus, it brings us only to the author's late teens. Figuratively also, because it encompasses not just one boy's life, but a community's whakapapa, history and mythology. . . The book both describes a culture and inscribes that culture in its structure, which frequently turns back through generations and epochs of time, in order to move forward . . . I knew it was true to a way of life and a way of thinking and seeing the world. This seems an important thing to preserve, and it has been preserved well . . . And there were many pleasures to be found in the prose itself. The voice on the page is very much the voice of the man: eloquent, endearing, cheeky, somehow proud and humble at the same time, willing to put it all out there.”

Tina Makereti, NZ Books

“I loved this book. The ancestors and the no-so-distant relations, and the immediate family members are all brought to vivid life by this master of storytelling. Witi Ihimaera has created an amazing work . . . The story of his whanau and the challenges, anguish, love and pain that they experienced are written about in such a way as to make you stop and think. Seriously. And for quite a long time. . . . This is a wonderful skill – to be able to give life to figures long dead, and Witi Ihimaera has it in spades. . . . We can depend on Witi Ihimaera to write about life, love, history, tipuna, turangawaewae and more in a way that all New Zealanders, Maori or Pakeha, can identify with, rejoice in and share.”

Sue Esterman, booksellersnz.wordpress

“In both its content and its form the book provides a rare experience of a culture that the Anglo-American literary tradition does not know. As a bonus, it offers to anyone who knows Ihimaera's fiction the pleasure of recognising characters, motifs and even entire scenes that appear in such novels as The Matriarch, The Dream Swimmer, The Uncle's Story, Bulibasha and The Whale Rider, and in some short stories.”

Lawrence Jones, Otago Daily Times

“An honest, moving book, which examines what it means to be Maori in a Pakeha-dominated environment without losing the sense of self that comes from Maori tradition.”

Christine Edmunds, Wanganui Chronicle


Awards & Recognition

  • Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

    Awarded • 2016 • Ockham Book Awards


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News
Witi Ihimaera's Maori Boy takes out the General Non-Fiction Category at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

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