Māori Boy: A memoir of childhood
by Witi Ihimaera (Vintage, $39.99)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan
Witi Ihimaera, the distinguished Māori author and the first Māori to publish a book of short stories and a novel, has adopted a new genre with his latest book. But despite its subtitle, this book is a great deal more than a memoir of childhood. There is far more in the book about Ihimaera’s whānau and whakapapa – and related stories – than there is about Ihimaera himself. In nearly 400 pages, his personal story only gets as far as School Certificate, with occasional allusions to his future life.
Clearly Ihimaera’s whakapapa deeply affected all aspects of his childhood. It is not just background to be covered in the first few chapters in chronological order: it permeates the whole book, sometimes repetitively to illustrate some aspect of his development, and sometimes with digressions to mythical and historical stories from Paikea to Maui to Cook to Te Kooti to Princess Te Puea and many others. After one such digression he admits, “I need to get a move on”.