Patricia Grace

Patricia Grace’s Biography

Arts Foundation Icon 2005
Ngāti Raukawa & Te Ati Awa
Patricia Grace, DCNZM, QSO, is a leading New Zealand writer. Since the 1970s she has been writing stories from a Maori perspective for a global audience.

Patricia Grace was born in Wellington in 1937. She graduated with a Diploma in Teaching at Victoria University. Patricia began writing by entering her work in competitions with local newspapers before joining a Penwoman's Club in Auckland. Her first collection of short stories, Waiariki, was published in 1975 and won the PEN/Hubert Church Award for Best First Book of Fiction. Her first novel Mutuwhenua (1978) was the first novel ever published by a Māori woman writer and was short listed for the fiction section of the New Zealand Book Awards.

Books by Patricia Grace are well known throughout New Zealand and have also been published in the United States, United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy and Germany. Patricia's writing has been published into many languages, including the notable translation of Potiki into Māori by Huia Publishers in 2007.

In 1985, Patricia was awarded the Victoria University of Wellington writing fellowship. She used this time to complete her second novel, Potiki (1986). This book won the fiction section of the New Zealand Book Awards in 1987 and has been much applauded since. She was awarded the LiBeraturpreis from Frankfurt, Germany for Potiki in 1994.

Patricia has written numerous short stories throughout her career. Collections such as The Dream Sleepers and Other Stories (1980), Electric City and Other Stories, (1987), Selected Stories (1991) and The Sky People (1994) allowed her to investigate often challenging Māori experiences through a diverse range of protagonists.

One of her short stories, The Dream, was made into a feature-length television film in te reo Māori in 1989. Patricia wrote the screenplay for the resulting work E Tipu E Rea - Te Moemoea, which is seen as a significant milestone for the development of Māori broadcasting content in New Zealand. The production assisted the careers Māori actors and film makers including Temuera Morrison and Rawiri Paratene.

Patricia was awarded the Queen's Service Order in 1988 and an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Victoria University in 1989. Her third novel, Cousins (1992), again placed her on the shortlist for the fiction section of the 1992 New Zealand Book Awards. Her fourth novel, Baby No-eyes (1998), was short listed for the Tasmania/Pacific Prize for Literature.

Dogside Story was published in 2001. With this novel Patricia won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Fiction Book Prize in 2001; was long listed for the Booker Prize in 2002; was short listed for the fiction prize of the Montana Book Awards 2002 and the Tasmania/ PacificPrize for Literature. Her next novel, Tu (2004), won the Deutz Medal for Fiction or Poetry at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2005.

The Arts Foundation recognised Patricia with a prestigious Icon Award in 2005. The Arts Foundation Icon Awards - Whakamana Hiranga, honours senior New Zealand artists for their life-long achievements. Patricia was recognised for her contribution as a leader in New Zealand Literature. The Award is considered the Arts Foundation's highest honour and is limited to a living circle of twenty artists.

Prime Minister Helen Clark bestowed Patricia with the NZ$60,000 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in 2006. This Award recognises writers who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand Literature. Patricia was acknowledged in 2007 in the Queen's birthday honours list, becoming a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for her services to literature. In the same year she was selected as the 2008 Laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, announced at a ceremony at the University of Oklahoma. An international jury representing 10 countries selected her as the winner of the US$50,000 prize administered by the University of Oklahoma and its international magazine, World Literature Today.

In 2010, Patricia's first biography Ned and Katina (2009) was recognised at the Massey University Nga Kupu Ora Māori Book Awards.

Patricia Grace continues to be active within the New Zealand literary community, presenting her work at events and taking part in the NZ Book Council's Writers in Schools programme. Patricia lives in Plimmerton on her ancestral land of Ngāti Toa, near her home Marae at Hongoeka Bay.

Milestones & Awards