Blog Archives

Not settled yet, Claudia Jardine

Christchurch Ruptures Katie Pickles BWB Texts, $15.00, ISBN 9780908321292 Leaving the Red Zone: Poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes James Norcliffe and Joanna Preston (eds) Clerestory Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780992251758 When the time came to decide what I would do after

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Walking in more than one world, Paula Morris

Being Chinese Helene Wong Bridget Williams Books, $40.00, ISBN 9780947492380 Going Places: Migration, Economics and the Future of New Zealand Julie Fry and Hayden Glass BWB Texts, $15.00, ISBN 9780947492694 The First Migration: Maori Origins 3000 BC – AD 1450 Atholl Anderson

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Chalk and cheese William Brandt

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie: Murder, Politics and Revenge in Nineteenth-century New Zealand
David Hastings
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408374

The Scene of the Crime: Twelve Extraordinary True Stories of Crime and Punishment
Steve Braunias
HarperCollins, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775540830

Tourism has certainly come a long way. When in 1878 Mary Dobie made the trip from England to New Zealand, travelling in the company of sister Bertha (has that name ever been fashionable?) and mother Ellen, it took her three months. Not surprisingly after such a big investment of time and effort, the women planned a stay of three years – time to attend the wedding of émigré brother Herbert and still fit in a tour of the North Island, taking in, among other places, the fabled Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana. In special travel outfits of their own design (“a stout dungaree petticoat and a loose blouse bodice of thin cotton stuff”), the intrepid trio even visited Fiji and Samoa. “No white woman had ever been there,” journalled Bertha, with some pride, of a caving expedition to the Yasawa Islands.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review and Sociology

Tipping points, Sylvan Thomson

First Lady – From Boyhood to Womanhood: The Incredible Story of New Zealand’s Sex-change Pioneer 
Liz Roberts with Alison Mau
Upstart Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781927262375

Sexual Cultures in Aotearoa New Zealand Education
Alexandra C Gunn and Lee A Smith (eds)
Otago University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781877578687

2014 was the transgender tipping point. At least that’s what Time Magazine declared, with its front cover featuring the transgender actress Laverne Cox poised mid-step, svelte and powerful, beside the subheading “Men cannot become women. Women cannot become men”. This heading  – possibly perplexing to those unfamiliar with transgender issues – is part of the media’s growing sensitivity towards trans identities: if someone born male wants to be a woman, then they always were a woman; it is society that categorised them as a man.

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Posted in Gender, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Driving home, Ann Beaglehole

Migrant Journeys: New Zealand Taxi Drivers tell their Stories Adrienne Jansen and Liz Grant (Michael Hall photographer) Bridget Williams Books, $40.00, ISBN 9781927277331 In Adrienne Jansen’s 1990 book I Have in My Arms Both Ways, 10 immigrant women told their

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Before and after, Christina Stachurski

Remembering Christchurch: Voices from Decades Past Alison Parr Penguin, $45.00, ISBN 9780143573371 A Villa at the End of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City Fiona Farrell Vintage, $40.00, ISBN 9781775537519 King Rich Joe Bennett HarperCollins, $37.00, ISBN

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Posted in Non-fiction and Sociology

Permolat and dogbox bivs, Hannah McGregor

Tramping: A New Zealand History
Shaun Barnett and Chris Maclean
Craig Potton, $70.00,
ISBN 9781927213230

Tramping: A New Zealand History travels lightly through terrain which will feel familiar to many of its readers, the extended family of woollen-sock wearing, pack-hauling, bushwhackers. These people exist in sufficient numbers in this country to ensure this history will eventually become a collectors’ item. To obtain it, it will become necessary to tramp well into the back shelves of second-hand bookshops.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

The fungibility of human longevity, Charlotte Paul

The Healthy Country?: A History of Life and Death in New Zealand
Alistair Woodward and Tony Blakely
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869408138

Non-Māori New Zealanders lived longer than any other peoples on earth between 1876 and 1940. Figuring out why is the starting point for this fascinating and scholarly study. Of course, even this statement begs a question. These figures apply to only a segment, not the total population of New Zealand, yet the comparisons are generally with total populations of other countries. Nevertheless, the non-Māori life expectancy was far ahead, and this was the only data available until 1913 (when Māori deaths were first collected). Moreover, epidemiologists Woodward and Blakely are properly even-handed and comprehensive in investigating both Māori and non-Māori life expectancy from pre-contact until 2011.

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Posted in Health, History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Culinary design and display, Peta Mathias

Kitchens: The New Zealand Kitchen in the 20th Century
Helen Leach
Otago University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781877578373

Professor Helen Leach, the author of Kitchens: The New Zealand Kitchen in the 20th Century, is simply a national treasure, along with her sisters Mary Browne and Nancy Tichborne – talk about a heavenly power trio. If we didn’t have Leach’s scholarly, meticulously researched, riveting books on culinary history, we would have had to invent her. Shame about the uninspiring cover, though – maybe it’s an Otago University Press thing: mustn’t be too bright or shiny.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Where’s Rewi? Mary Roberts 

White Ghosts, Yellow Peril: China and New Zealand 1790–1959
Stevan Eldred-Grigg with Zeng Dazheng
Otago University Press, $55.00,
ISBN 9781877578656

Stevan Eldred-Grigg and Zeng Dazheng have, in some respects, written the book that I’ve been waiting for. This is a thorough, readable and comprehensive survey of relations between China and New Zealand in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. It also provides a balanced and enlightening account of the growth of the “traditional” Chinese community in New Zealand: that is, the largely Cantonese community that New Zealanders of my generation (born in the 1950s) and older knew as the New Zealand Chinese. The New Zealand Chinese community is now made up of people whose origins are from all over the Sinophone world, but for many decades its members were largely from three small areas of Guangdong (Canton) province.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction and Sociology
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