Monthly Archives: May 2015

Reading

NZ Book Month

So, it’s kinda appropriate that I squeeze this blog post out tonight, while it’s still May.

hard_to_find

photo credit: Deep breath ...
via photopin (license)

After the demise of NZ book month, the wonderful Rachael King decided we should go ahead and have it anyway. On Twitter. With the hashtag #NZBookMonthMay

I was super excited about this, because I love NZ books. I love that I can see myself and my country reflected in works of literature.

That doesn’t mean I love *all* NZ books. Or that I’ll like a book just because it’s a NZ book. It’s hard to find books that match my taste and reading style. I consider myself lucky when I do. And if it’s a NZ Book, even better.

What is a NZ book anyway?

We discussed this a bit on the hashtag (I asked the question, and hoped people smarter than me would answer it) and we came to the conclusion that, in the loosest sense, a NZ book is one written by a NZ author, or one about a NZ topic.

nz_author_flowchartWhat is a NZ author, then?

The next question is what’s a NZ author. I think the answer can be found in this groovy flow chart. (How can flow charts not be groovy? They flow.)

So, what do I like about NZ books?

I’m gonna talk about novels here, coz that’s what I do.

I like settings that I know.

Earthquake Town by Beverly Dunlop is the first book I remember reading that was set in the town where I lived.

You know that line from Lorde’s song “Team” where she says, “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen.” I feel the same about books.

I get a thrill when I recognize a setting. I’ve been there. I know that place. It could be me in that story.

With my own writing, I like to be specific about where it takes place (rather than using a generic unnamed town, even if it is a fictionalized version), so people who live there in real life know there’s a story set in their town. And they can have that moment of recognition. Which will be great if and when anyone gets to read them.

I like that we dream big

I think the first adult fantasy novel I read was The Wizards and the Warriors by Hugh Cook.

It’s part of an epic fantasy series and started me on a decade-long fantasy binge. The world is intensely detailed and the characters fully-fleshed. I don’t know if everyone has the feeling that things happen to other people, not them, but I sure do. Little girls from NZ (like me) don’t get published. (But, of course, we do.) And to see something of this scale achieved by a NZer gave me that tiny twinge of hope that maybe I could do it too.

I like the us-ness of it

Thanks to someone mentioning it on the hashtag, I started reading Reach by Hugh Brown.

Near the beginning, the MC is having a conversation with his grandparents. About pee of all things. And it was a conversation I could imagine happening in homes all around the country. The casualness. The humour. The slang. The NZ-ness of the way we speak and think.

Just like I recognize settings, I recognize us too. That could be my family. That could be me.

Do we need NZ books?

Yes, yes, a million times yes.

Because no one else is exactly like us. We need to tell our stories. We need to read our stories. We need to see ourselves on screen in the pages.

So I’m gonna keep reading and hoping to find that perfect match in a NZ book. And I hope you do too.