12 Nov 2023

From lighthouse keepers to taxi drivers: publishing lesser read voices with Adrienne Jansen

From Culture 101, 2:30 pm on 12 November 2023



Adrienne Jansen Photo: Juniper Gibson

There are many books about lighthouse keepers. And many iconic images of lighthouses on our coastline. Yet the lighthouse keeper was pretty much made extinct in the 1970s in New Zealand when lighthouses became automated. 

In Adrienne Jansen’s sixth novel, Light Keeping, the work and home of the lighthouse keeper is brought back to life. 

Giving voice to others, through writing and publishing opportunities has been something Jansen has devoted most of her career to. Principally to those we hear from the less: from recent immigrants, to cleaners and taxi drivers. 

Jansen has a long career as a writer herself. For Light Keeping (Quentin Wilson Publishing) she draws in part on her own family history - in particular the story of her great grandfather Charles Hayward who drowned when his boat capsized in 1887.

Light Keeping

Photo: supplied

In 1994 Jansen founded the creative writing programme at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua. She’d previously worked as an ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) teacher and been involved in refugee resettlement. 

More recently, she has worked as a writer at Te Papa for 11 years, and her own creative practice extends to poetry, nonfiction and short stories. Working extensively with migrants in New Zealand, books with others have included The Crescent Moon: The Asian Face of Islam in New Zealand (2009), with Ans Westra, and Migrant Journeys: New Zealand Taxi Drivers Tell Their Stories (2016).

As a publisher Jansen co-founded Escalator Press at Whitireia in 2013 and in 2016 helped set up Landing Press. 

To celebrate 30 years of publishing education at Whitireia, the polytechnic has published Everything I Know About Books: An insider look at publishing in Aotearoa, with short essays by 75 writers. Among them naturally is Adrienne Jansen herself.