‘Mirrors’ by Patricia Grace

Patricia Grace is one of my favourite writers, and I know most of her work because I wrote my MA dissertation on her book Cousins. Grace is a part of the Māori Renaissance movement that began in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1970s. I read her first collection, Wairiki, during my studies, notably the first book to be published by a Māori woman back in 1975. ‘Mirrors’ is from her second collection, The Dream Sleepers, published in 1980. In it the narrator walks outside in her slippers and steps in dog shit. And within a very simple story, Grace explores themes of domesticity and family. I love it so much because it is funny, and also because it demonstrates in a few pages what a beautiful writer Grace is, the way she turns words into sounds you can hear, even if you do not speak the words out loud. She conveys longing and grief better than any writer I can think of.

First published in 1975 and collected in The Dream Sleepers, Longman Paul, 1980, and in One Whale, Singing: Stories from New Zealand, The Women’s Press 1985

‘Kepa’ by Patricia Grace

I read this story when I was a child who played bullrush (known as ‘bulldog’ in the UK) until it was banned at our school after a student’s arm was broken, and although I’m not tangata whenua, it shocked me to read a story that looked more like my actual life than any I’d read before. The paddock and the children in it looked a lot like my school playground, minus the cowpats. This story stayed with me and changed how I thought about stories: the idea that one could write about how things actually were in one’s day-to-day reality, cowpats and all, and that not all stories happened in a fantastic world, like Middle-earth or far-off London.

First published in The Dream Sleepers and Other Stories, Longman Paul, 1980. Collected in Collected Stories: Patricia Grace, Penguin, 1994