8 Nov 2014

Witi Ihimaera 'bites bullet' with memoir

2:33 pm on 8 November 2014

Pioneering Maori novelist and short story writer Witi Ihimaera has written about his early life for the first time in Maori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood.

Witi Ihimaera

Witi Ihimaera spoke with Kim Hill about his new memoir, the "double burden" of Maori writers, music and history. Photo: SUPPLIED

Speaking to Saturday Morning's Kim Hill, Mr Ihimaera said switching from fiction to memoir had been difficult.

"I have been trying to run away from it ever since Random [House] asked me to do it," he said.

"It's been very, very difficult. With memoir, you've actually got to engage the truth ... This time, I've had to bite the bullet and take off that veil."

Maori Boy, the first volume of his multiple-part memoir, covers the first 15 years of Mr Ihimaera's life on New Zealand's East Coast, including several experiences that influenced his fiction writing.

He said the book also covered what life in his community was like in the 1940s and 1950s.

"I couldn't, when I started writing Maori Boy, just make it just about my life. It had to be about the life of everybody.

"That's what this is about. It's not just about me. It's about this valley, it's about a Maori story that draws its inspiration from oral traditions. It's about what we were like in the 1940s and 1950s."

He also spoke to Saturday Morning about his parents' negative reaction to his first book, the "double burden" of Maori writers, music and history.

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