Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff's harrowing vision of his country's indigenous people 200 years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.
©1990 Alan Duff (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Duff (himself the son of a Maori mother and a white father) shows amazing facility with language in the intense, fast-paced, choppy internal monologues he gives his characters.... Duff shows courage in attacking the view that assimilation is the first step out of poverty, and he does so by spinning a compelling tale." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Alan Duff's first novel bursts upon the literary landscape with all the noise and power of a new volcano." (Michael Gifkins, New Zealand Listener)
"This is the Haka, the rage of the people who, yes, once were warriors.... A kick to the guts of New Zealand's much vaunted pride in its Maori/Pakeha race relations. A breathless, fearless debut." (Witi Ihimaera)
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"Interweaves Maori violence, softness & community"
Powerfully written tragic story of alcohol, violence, loss of identity and dysfunctionality in Maori community, 200 years after colonial conquest.
Context is everything but this novel goes beyond helping one understand the presence of such hopelessness and violence in the Maori and other First Peoples of the world. The novel takes us into the darkness and impact of alcohol and violence on communities and social cohesion. Along the way we are introduced to community solidarity in Two Pines, and to the Heke family: Grace - an adolescent lost in tragic circumstances; Jake - the father whose loss of identity and role suffuses the dysfunctional family; and Beth - resilient mother who reaffirms centrality of community and hope.
Powerfully written, beautifully narrated, informative insights into Maori communities and culture. Worth reading whether to enter the world of the Maori (and many other Indigenous Peoples worldwide); to understand the impact of alcohol and violence on families; or to connect with under-classes everywhere and appreciate the challenge of transforming the trajectory of difficult lives...
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