Books are one of my reasons to get out of bed each morning. It’s a cliché, but reading opens up new worlds. However, a lot of the time, those worlds are created by men. Choosing the latest bestseller to read is easy, but a focus on popular books often leads New Zealand readers to overlook local talent – especially female talent.
Recently, I began making an effort to read local books by female authors. Given our track record of excellent female writing, those books were surprisingly difficult to find. But once I read them, the effort was worth it, because these books are amazing. To make the first choice easier, here are a few of my favourites, and the reasons why you should read them.
A History of New Zealand Women - Barbara Brookes
Do you want to feel inspired by some amazing women? Or would you rather get fired up about systemic barriers in the 20th century? This book showcases all of women’s history in New Zealand, whether it’s positive or negative. Telling some shocking but always interesting stories about the challenges women have faced, A History of New Zealand Women is essential reading.
Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings - Tina Makereti
Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings clarifies some of the many misunderstandings about the Moriori while telling an intricate story, delving into the complexities of colonialism. The novel spans three different centuries and three different cultures while maintaining a gripping pace.
Baby - Annaleese Jochems
Breaking into the scene with her debut novel, Analeese Jochems is just 23 years old. Baby is exciting and entertaining, the intense drama written in a uniquely Kiwi voice. If you’re looking for a book that defies genre boundaries by combining romance and drama and crime, Baby is the perfect choice.
Queen of Beauty - Paula Morris
It would be almost impossible for a Kiwi not to find something to relate to in Queen of Beauty. The structure of the novel contrasts the two settings of New Zealand and New Orleans, but there are flashes of recognition on each page, in both the characterisation of New Zealand families and attitudes, and the scenic descriptions of our landscape.
waha | mouth - Hinemoana Baker
Want to read something other than novels? These poems are hard to turn away from. Hinemoa Baker’s writing sounds even better when read out loud, making waha | mouth perfect for sharing with friends. The topics (like cattle sperm) may be unorthodox, but Baker makes the mundane and unusual seem beautiful.
Representation isn’t everything, but reading more female voices helps to remove the silence around problems faced by women. Writing by Kiwi women is amazing, and it shouldn’t take such an effort to find more of it. It doesn’t have to be every book you read, but once you discover books written from a uniquely Kiwi, female perspective, you’ll want more. Supporting New Zealand publishers and female writers is a win-win.Support Villainesse