Book Review: Risking their Lives: New Zealand Abortion Stories 1900-1939, by Margaret Sparrow

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_risking_their_livesDame Margaret Sparrow, since qualifying as a doctor in the 1960s, has played a significant role in promoting the availability of reproductive health services in New Zealand. She openly states that it was thanks to her own ability to access contraceptives, and on one occasion a mail-order abortion drug, that she finished medical school at all. A prominent member of groups including Family Planning and the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, she still makes appearances at pro-choice protests. Recently named Public Health Association champion for 2017, Dame Margaret has been speaking at various events recently, continuing to promote her causes and occasionally startling younger women with frank discussions about masturbation.

She has lent her collection of historical contraceptive devices to be exhibited at Te Papa. She displays a golden speculum-shaped trophy in her living room. In short, Dame Margaret Sparrow is a bloody legend.

Risking their Lives is the third in a series recording abortion history in New Zealand. The earlier books covered the periods 1940 to 1980, and the 1800s. Compiled from coroner’s reports, newspaper reports and some biographical information about key figures who instigated change, the book intersperses historical context with the sad stories of many women whose circumstances led to their deaths from abortion-related causes. This book covers the section of time in between the previous two, during which increasing awareness of deaths from septic abortions led to changing political priorities about women’s health. Eventually.

As shown in the book, women who were pregnant and did not want to be were really between a rock and a hard place: strong social disapproval of childbearing out of wedlock led people to desperate remedies that could kill them. Married couples also feature in these stories; some women who died from abortions already had young children and felt they could not afford another.

Unsurprisingly, this is pretty grim reading. Margaret Sparrow acknowledged as much at the book launch, thanking Victoria University Press for committing to publishing her work despite knowing that abortion death is hardly bestseller material. As she read out one of the narratives, in which a woman on her deathbed was being quizzed by police about which drugs she and her friend might have procured, I suddenly remembered the words on a painting about illegal abortion from 1978: This woman died, I care. This, I thought, must be part of the purpose: to tell the stories of these 90-odd women, who didn’t need to die like that. To show, however belatedly, that someone cares.

After a setting out of historical context, the book divides its stories by the themes of medical causes of death, contraception, the law, then the professions of people most commonly caught up in abortion-related trials and scandals (doctors, nurses, chemists and others). I eventually found this layout slightly confusing, as with each new chapter the stories would start back in the early 1900s and progress on to the late 1930s. Given the evolution of social and medical perspectives being shown throughout the book, I might have found it easier to follow a more strictly chronological arrangement.

The chapter on contraception provided a surprise highlight. Following discussions of contraceptives in the media of the day (disapproving editorials on the one hand, euphemistic newspaper advertisements for “remedies” on the other) the chapter goes on to describe and contrast three pioneering women in the field of birth control: Marie Stopes in the UK, Margaret Sanger in the USA and Ettie Rout in New Zealand. They come across as fascinating characters: they knew each other and had at various times collaborated then strongly disagreed. They all seemed, in their own way, to be rather eccentric. But given the strength of conviction needed to keep pushing their work through, against prevailing social norms, a touch of unconventionality might have been helpful.

The most obvious audience for this book might be students of social and medical history. The book is however a stark reminder to any reader about how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. It certainly made me grateful to be living with a female reproductive system now rather than 100 years ago. Abortion back then was dangerous, certainly, but naturally-occurring miscarriages could also kill women, and childbirth carried far more risks before modern medicine cut down the rates of fatal infections.

Reading these women’s stories may be an act of bearing witness: This woman died, I care. But we are also reminded that for any progress to be made, people like Margaret Sparrow needed to care. As she notes in her epilogue, we still have abortion in the crimes act, and while so much has improved for women’s health, there are still barriers. The connections between these kinds of stories and the present day need to be heard, because people need to keep on caring enough to keep pushing for change.

Reviewed by Rebecca Gray

Risking their Lives: New Zealand Abortion Stories 1900-1939
by Margaret Sparrow
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9781776561636

Book Review: Matariki: The star of the year, by Rangi Matamua

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_matariki_rangi_matamuaDr Rangi Matamua (Tūhoe), an Associate Professor at the University of Waikato, lectures on Māori language and culture and has a specialist research interest in Māori astronomy and star lore. In recent years he has been involved in public promotion of knowledge about Matariki, the star cluster traditionally associated with midwinter and the beginning of a new year. Most commonly known in Western culture as the Pleiades or “seven sisters” of Greek myth, this cluster of seven (or nine, or more) stars is visible throughout much of the year but disappears in late autumn and rises again in midwinter.

For those of us who have not grown up with stories of Matariki, it appears that the constellation and associated festivities have become more promoted in mainstream Aotearoa New Zealand society just in the last decade or so.  While it is cool to be able to renew a local midwinter celebration, some might note that there’s also a danger of commercialising traditions to the point that the culture behind them is misinterpreted or disregarded. I mean, we haven’t seen “sexy Matariki dressup costumes” in the dollar stores yet, but it’s still possible that whatever is promoted as “Matariki” now has, by being interpreted for a general audience, lost some of its deeper meaning.

Dr Matamua’s book therefore feels timely, as it answers many questions about the culture, history and Mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge) associated with Matariki. This is useful for those of us who would like to understand and mark the Matariki season without getting all insensitive-story-stealing-Pākehā about it. Perhaps most importantly, the book is part of Dr Matamua’s stated mission to ensure Māori ownership of knowledge and practices associated with this star lore; for Māori to stop being written into history and start writing ourselves into history.”

This book reads like a labour of both love and scholarship.  Flicking to the back first, I made the rather mundane observation that there’s a short index but a relatively lengthy bibliography and list of citations for each chapter. It became clear as I started reading that while this is not a long book, it is the distilled result of many years of research. Not just the author’s academic research either: the information in this book has been passed down through experts in his family. A 400-page manuscript about Māori star lore was compiled by a father and son in Ruatāhuna between 1898 and 1933, at a time when many customs were ceasing to be practised due to colonisation. The son passed the manuscript on to his grandson, who later passed it on to his own grandson, Rangi Matamua.

Matariki has many names, so the book begins with an overview of how the star cluster is known in different parts of the world and in other ancient myths, showing the connections between traditions in other parts of Polynesia. But even in Māori culture, it is associated with multiple meanings. Experts meticulously observed the stars to inform navigation and harvesting activities, while also upholding spiritual beliefs about the connection that each star had to people on earth. Each star in the Matariki constellation has a role in watching over sources of food, wellbeing and weather.

Matamua points out early on that the practises of astronomy and astrology are blended in Māori star lore. Appropriately, this book weaves technical observations with explanations of cultural practices and various proverbs about Matariki. Artist Te Haunui Tuna has provided beautiful black and white illustrations throughout, which similarly blend the technical and spiritual. These show the place and movement of celestial bodies (eg position of the sun relative to stars; phases of the moon) along with the Atua personalities associated with each – so the sun and each star in the Matariki cluster gets a distinctive face to match their mythological personality.

The book dispels some common misconceptions. For example, that Matariki is not a harvest festival – by the time it has risen, the harvest should be mostly done. Rather, it is a time to gather and feast during the more barren time of year, honouring the deceased and offering sustenance to Matariki in the hope for a prosperous new season. Also that the timing for this observation – as with many of the traditional Māori seasons – cannot be mapped tightly onto a Western calendar that remains static each year regardless of the environmental conditions. Matariki was not even observed at the same time or in the same way throughout Māori communities, which makes sense considering that constellations become visible in different parts of the country at different times.

There is a helpful table projecting the setting and rising of Matariki every year from now to 2050, showing how the period of Matariki varies year to year. Should we ever get to the point of declaring a midwinter public holiday for Matariki, there is no one calendar date it could be attached to; it seems more like Easter, moving every year according to what’s going on in the sky. Rangi Matamua concludes his book with a discussion about the revitalisation of Matariki customs in recent years. He hopes that it can develop as a celebration that, while inclusive and modern, is underpinned by Māori culture, language, traditional practices and beliefs. Judging from this book, his research could provide a valuable resource to help achieve that aim.

Reviewed by Rebecca Gray

Matariki: The star of the year
by Rangi Matamua
Published by Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775503255

Book Review: The Journal of Urgent Writing, edited by Nicola Legat

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_journal_of_urgent_writingThis book, or journal, is the first in a planned annual collection of long form essays from (mostly) academics and journalists, addressing “urgent” topics that they have been researching or thinking about recently. If continued as planned, these journals should give a snapshot about issues that were concerning us at that time – or that should have been concerning us more, in retrospect. In any case, this collection brings specialist writers to a more generalist audience. A fine idea that seems to be gaining in popularity, considering that Auckland University Press has also just published a collection of non-fiction stories and essays.

Some editorial decisions have probably been made about the order in which these essays are presented, but I could not pick up any logic in the placement. In some cases essays that touch on similar subjects are placed far apart, making me wonder whether they would have given the reader a different impression if read sequentially. I only wondered this after reading two essays that did seem to segue: historian Peter Meihana writes on how the concept of “Māori privilege” may be part of New Zealand’s national creation myth, used by colonial governments to both claim egalitarianism and to sanction Māori dispossession. This is followed by Krushil Watene’s piece on water, law and philosophical concepts of ownership. Watene argues that indigenous perspectives on humans’ connection to and responsibility to nature are among the philosophical forces that can lead us away from recent (environmentally disastrous) ideologies that privilege exploitation of natural sources for individual gain.

I suspect that, as with a magazine, these pieces should be picked up in whatever order the reader cares. No more energy for new arguments? Flick to the sole pictorial essay and marvel at diatoms! I just wasn’t feeling it when I turned to an essay about why children can’t read, so came back to it later only to realise that it wasn’t the subject that had left me cold, but the fact that the essay had none of the conversational qualities that made some of the others so engaging. Nothing wrong with a list of well-argued refutations of myths on this topic, and I’m sure the piece could have formed the basis of a good lecture, but there was no illustrative anecdote, no insertion of the authors’ voices into the narrative along the lines of “when we first looked at this issue we expected X, but here’s what happened…”.

Other readers may well differ, but the most successful essays for me were the ones that gave the feeling of a good sit-down chat with someone who knows way more than you on a particular topic and would just love to tell you about how they discovered it. The first piece – Dan Salmon on the problem of sustainable tuna fisheries and so much more – is a fantastic example of this. The next piece is a complete change of tune: an address to graduates about how to live a good life which, although containing plenty of warm and worthwhile advice, did not strike me as especially “urgent” or new. Paul McDonald’s address does, however, incorporate advice which could be a commissioning brief for this kind of collection: “Tell stories, too, especially those that exemplify our humanity. Constructive change is most likely to result from a combination of logical data and a compelling story”.

To that end, Jarrod Gilbert makes riveting use of statistics combined with shocking examples of how those stats are or are not addressed, in his essay on crime and justice. He writes like a guy who could talk your ear off about any number of maddening stories on these topics without getting at all boring.

Mike Joy is angry about the state of our rivers, and this is hardly news, but it is perhaps fitting that his subject and angle was the one I could most easily predict from looking at the author list. His essay charts his personal and professional journey to becoming “that scientist who campaigns about freshwater”, and the dramas along the way.

Teena Brown Pulu tells an intensely emotional family story to illustrate the irrelevance of rules that force people to nominate only one ethnicity to identify with. Paula Morris and David Slack also do lovely work weaving wider themes into their reflections about life stages and parents. Slack’s final essay ends the collection beautifully on a poignant and hopeful note.

Richard Shaw addresses arguments for why young people disengage from democracy and what should be done about it, in a topical and indeed urgent piece that is hard to read now without thinking ”ah, this was written right before THAT THING happened in the USA…”
Speaking of which, it’s only fair that a collection of urgent 2016 writing should allude to the political news in the USA. In the one essay that genuinely irritated me, Paul Thomas started off with what seemed like a “damn kids get off my lawn” invective against the “cult of self-esteem”, politically correct outrage and social media narcissism. He then annoyed me further by seguing into what may be a fair point, arguing that Trump’s rise to power is linked to his embodiment of extreme narcissism which is only now seen as normal. Frankly that’s an argument I was just not ready to read about, even if it contains a grain of truth. 2016, everyone.

To sum up, a quote from another highly topical essay reminds us what this compilation is aiming for. David Hall’s fair-minded discussion about the meaning of environmental politics buzzwords such as “green growth” concludes: “By taking seriously other ideas, even those we disagree with, we force ourselves to think better about our own.”

With that in mind, bring on the 2017 round of thought-provoking rants.

Reviewed by Rebecca Gray

The Journal of Urgent Writing
edited by Nicola Legat
Massey University Press
ISBN 9780994130068

Book Review: This Model World, by Anthony Byrt

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_this_modern_worldI first heard of Anthony Byrt quite recently, when Kim Hill quoted him extensively at an event about Simon Denny’s Secret Power installation (first shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale – a section of this exhibit is now at Te Papa). I state this to explain my own perspective: I am interested in art, but have not studied it extensively and am not familiar enough with art criticism to know New Zealand art writers by name. It quickly became clear that I did not have to be an historian of contemporary art to enjoy and appreciate this new book.

Over the course of several years, Byrt visited exhibitions and studios around the world, interviewing or reflecting on 12 contemporary New Zealand artists. Six longer chapters are interspersed with shorter features on artists whose work extends or links to themes in the longer sections. Byrt appears to have given a lot of thought to the first-person narrative style of writing. I think that it works very well here: in places he steps back to detail an artist’s background, then he comes back into the frame to talk about his own experiences and changes in perspective relating to their work. Becky Nunes’ photographs throughout the book seem similarly well-thought-out. There was a conscious decision to focus on the artworks and the artists’ working spaces, rather than photographing the artists themselves.

The promotional blurb describes this as “a riveting first-person account of one author’s travels to the edge of contemporary art”. I did find Byrt’s journeys quite riveting. He has a talent for describing certain scenes so you can imagine yourself in the space with the artwork. However I’m particularly drawn to the phrase “the edge”. We in New Zealand “live at the edge of the universe, like everybody else”, as Bill Manhire’s words remind us on a concrete slab on the Wellington waterfront. And now, after so long being considered physically on the edges, we can participate in the global conversation about art more instantly than ever before, like everybody else. What will this mean for New Zealand art and artists?

We’re looking at some of the big, tricky, –isms here: globalism, commercialism, post-colonialism. Questions of how to critique a system while taking part in it. These themes interweave the stories of individual artists and their preoccupations.

I read this book over a couple of weeks and, on numerous occasions, found parallels between themes coming up in other parts of my life and in Byrt’s writing. I attended a symposium about health research, at which a book of new protocols for working with Māori genomic data was launched . One of the researchers stated that in this context we see how whakapapa is both a scientific AND a cultural construction. That evening, I read the chapter on Peter Robinson, whose early work dealt with his identification as “3.125% Māori”: “whakapapa rendered as stark biological fact”. Byrt sees some of Robinson’s more recent, interactive work as “a critical examination of the power dynamics of knowledge acquisition, of putting people to work, of who can speak about what and for whom”. And I found myself exclaiming, yes, exactly, that’s what we social researchers have been pondering too!

It was only partway through the chapter about Steve Carr that I realised Byrt was describing an exhibition I had just been discussing with my visiting father (we headed to Wellington’s City Gallery and his first question was whether “the watermelon” , which he had watched last time, was still there). I recalled Carr’s clever video works, some of which feature a slowed down bullet passing through several apples, and balloons containing contrasting coloured paint being popped. I had felt a childish glee, watching these scenes of beautiful destruction in a way that the human eye could not hold onto in real life. But there was something more going on – something visceral that I could not quite articulate. Byrt, of course, can articulate it: Carr uses camera technology “to create an image of total bodily empathy. His balloons, and the paint they contain, hang like organs and burst with human release.”

cv_creamy_psychologyIt has been a particular thrill for me to read Byrt’s take on several exhibitions that I had seen but not taken detailed notes on. I could certainly say that Yvonne Todd’s photographs struck me as creepy and hyper-real but, again, Byrt can explain why they seem that way.

Postcolonialism is, unsurprisingly, explored from various perspectives. Shane Cotton is known for painting large canvases with recurring themes including wide skies, stylised gang patches and the tattooed, preserved Māori heads that were notoriously collected and traded to European museums in the late 1800s. The discussion of his work is woven through a chapter which also features Byrt’s visit to look at different large panel works in the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas (I wondered whether anyone other than a recently-arrived New Zealander would describe the edges of these panels as having “a jet-lagged shimmer”) and a brief tour through the problematic history of Western exhibitions featuring Māori art. Cotton and his contemporaries work in an era where people recognise and debate the ethics of representing colonised cultures. Rather than taking an explicitly moral position, his representations of the disembodied heads, Byrt surmises, is “simply an act of re-presentation: a way to keep the disruptive residue of our violent history, still alive, staring back at us”.

In the final section on Simon Denny, Byrt draws links between historical events, rapidly evolving media representation of these events, and how our (that is, Byrt’s, Denny’s and my ‘older millennial’) generation sees the world. I had also briefly visited Venice in 2015. I had taken the opportunity to do two specific and, I thought, unconnected things. Firstly to retrace my maternal grandfather’s World War Two footsteps, taking a photo in the exact same spot as him outside the Hotel Danieli. Secondly to visit Denny’s Secret Power biennale exhibition at the Marciana Library. I was somewhat stunned when the chapter on Simon Denny opened with a description of the New Zealand forces’ stationing at the Hotel Danieli. Byrt linked that earlier example of New Zealand’s contribution to global affairs with the opening of Denny’s exhibition in Venice 70 years later: “a test of New Zealand’s contemporary political significance”. Byrt says that Denny made him rethink the significance of personal memories linked to historical moments. Now his writing on Denny’s art is having a similar effect on me.

I found this book thought-provoking and personally resonant. Alongside the description of the modern art world is a reflection on how contemporary New Zealanders negotiate our tangled global whakapapa to contribute to international conversations. I might have considered these ideas before, but not with such a focus on the role that art plays. I believe Anthony Byrt has come up with something quite profound here. I look forward to reading more of his writing.

Reviewed by Dr. Rebecca Gray

This Model World: Travels to the Edge of Contemporary Art
by Anthony Byrt
Published by Auckland University Press
ISBN 9781869408589

Book Review: Dispatches from Continent Seven: An Anthology of Antarctic Science, by Rebecca Priestley

Available in bookshops nationwide, this book is being discussed as part of NZ Writer’s Week. Rebecca Priestley’s event Ice Science is at 5pm on Saturday 12 March, and she will talk with fellow Antarcticans Rebecca Priestley, Tim Naish and Rhian Salmon, chaired by Te Radar.

Icv_dispatches_from_continent_seven was pretty excited about this book, having enjoyed Rebecca Priestley’s previous science anthology work, and I was not disappointed. Antarctica is a fascinating place that most of us will never set foot on, and this anthology gives a great sense of what travelling and working there would be like.

The book is arranged into roughly chronological sections covering the first voyages attempting to “discover” Antarctica, early accounts of scientists and explorers who made it onto the continent, the growth of scientific endeavours from the 1950’s onwards, and finally a collection of recent writing on what study in Antarctica can tell us about climate change and our possible future. Rebecca Priestley has selected, edited and introduced each piece of writing to show us who each writer is, where they are and what’s going on at the time that their narrative takes place.

Although “edited” is an obvious description of Priestley’s part in the book, I kept thinking during the earlier historical sections that “curated” would be a more accurate term. As I read, I felt like I was being shown through an exhibition about the history of Antarctic exploration – each piece following on from the next but from a different perspective, well-contextualised and interspersed with pictures and occasional poems. The inclusion of modern poetry is an interesting choice, one that I appreciate in part because it allows small insertions of female perspectives into the inevitably male exploration narratives. I found the poem that starts the book off, ‘The frozen pages’ by Gregory O’Brien, particularly engaging: it gets the book off to a philosophical start, setting the scene for readers to consider the importance of the stories that follow.

The early efforts to reach Antarctica – so distant, so mysterious, so very, very cold – took place in the age of European colonial voyages. James Cook and his crew circumnavigated the area while making scientific observations. French lieutenant Jospeh Dubouzet mused about whether “taking possession” by planting a flag in a new place was ridiculous, before asserting that in this case it wasn’t, and describing the excellent Bordeaux wine used to toast their conquest. James Clark Ross delighted in going around naming things after his colleagues and benefactors. The major difference was that there were no people already living on Antarctica. Therefore the efforts to claim and conquer parts of this last continent did not involve any direct human conflict. There are, however, numerous instances of penguins having a bad time in these early encounters! Just before their otherwise peaceful act of flag-planting conquest, Dubouzet and company had cleared the area by hurling away all the resident penguins, who were “much astonished”. No doubt.

The writers give beautiful descriptions of the unusual and wonderful things they are seeing, while also conveying the discomfort and visceral struggle for survival. I had no idea that the aviator Richard Byrd had worked on Antarctica, but his story about nearly locking himself out while doing a solo meteorological measurement was brilliantly told and quite nerve-wracking. As things took a turn for the worse in Robert Falcon Scott’s 1912 diary excerpt (presented as a story about collecting geological samples) I suddenly realised “ohh, we must be approaching the part with ‘I am just going outside and may be some time’”. Actually that exact quote from Captain Oates was not included, but I am sure I will not be the only reader who anticipates it, and realises in the process that the story of Scott’s fatal final expedition has become iconic.

I was somewhat less gripped by some of the more modern excerpts about doing science in Antarctica – not due to any fault of the authors, for each piece is a good example of science writing and explains a particular aspect of physics, biology or cool technical gear very well. I think this is a personal preference: as a social researcher, I found the stories in which the scientist described their personal experience more immersive, while the technical explanations were interesting but easier to skim over. I particularly enjoyed the rather chipper-sounding physicist Colin Bull describing his team’s experiences in the 1950s (struggling across a windy valley while laden with gear, he finds himself repeating a quote from a colleague: “Only another ten thousand feet of this excruciating garbage”), and atmospheric chemist Rhian Salmon’s chatty blog from the early 2000s about a typical day while wintering over. My interest picked up further for the final section relating to climate change: scary and very important.

I will be passing this book on to the earth scientist in my household, who is certain to find different aspects of the stories more interesting. This is therefore an endorsement: people will take different things out of this anthology, and that’s great. Recommended.

Reviewed by Rebecca Gray

Dispatches from Continent Seven: An Anthology of Antarctic Science
by Rebecca Priestley
Published by Awa Press
ISBN 9781927249055

Book Review: Migrant Journeys: New Zealand taxi drivers tell their stories

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

I finished this book feeling that I had just met a series of interesting strangers and cv_migrant_journeylistened to them summarise their life stories.

It is in some ways a simple book: a collection of interviews with fourteen migrant taxi drivers. These have been unobtrusively edited into first-person narratives that cover each person’s journey from their home country to New Zealand, through various changes in circumstances that eventually led them to take up taxi driving.

Each section starts with a brief profile of the participants, including some background about their country of origin and the reasons that they left. Those who became refugees or migrated in response to instability in their home countries have had some harrowing experiences. The fact that they are willing to talk about their pasts now indicates that they have some distance: the writers note at the start of the book that some of their potential interviewees pulled out of the project after finding that old memories were too painful for them. Others pulled out because they felt participating would not be acceptable to their communities, or would reflect badly on them professionally.

I appreciated the fact that the authors explained this at the start of the book: it acknowledges that their participants are not necessarily representative of the whole taxi driving sector (there are only two female participants, for example), although they are still diverse in origin and in their motivations. The introduction to the book also incorporates a helpful summary of New Zealand’s immigration context and the challenges currently faced by new migrants.

These are typical migrant stories in many respects: people move somewhere relatively safe, knowing that their own career prospects are uncertain but figuring that their children will have better opportunities from being educated here. Taxi driving is not a bad option for many, and some of the people who tell their stories here are proud of their own entrepreneurship in this sector: several owners and managers of taxi companies have been interviewed. A number also express frustration about the apparent unwillingness of New Zealand employers to take on people with foreign qualifications or names.

The participants all have their own theories as to why their preferred jobs are difficult to come by, and most seem very philosophical. There are some very sharp intellects on display here – people who are well qualified, well informed and bring interesting perspectives about social issues in New Zealand and in the countries where they have been. Reading the accounts together, I got an overall sense of how overseas-born taxi drivers see New Zealanders: we’re mostly kind, honest people, to the point of being slightly naïve. Sometimes ignorant about the rest of the world, and unaware of how good we have it here. Not at our best when we drink.

Although I felt the book ended somewhat abruptly – there is no conclusion, the stories just finish – upon reflection I don’t think it needed a conclusion. The stories speak for themselves.

A couple made me laugh out loud, others were compellingly dramatic and some have some very quotable soundbites. Every narrative gave me the impression that follows a good conversation with a new person: That person seems cool. I am glad I heard their story. I learned something. The authors’ stated aim in publishing this book is to “contribute to a wider understanding of what it is like to leave your home country and work hard to settle in a new land”. These stories remind us why it is so important to listen to each other.

Migrant Journeys: New Zealand taxi drivers tell their stories
by Adrienne Jansen and Liz Grant
Published by Bridget Williams Books
ISBN 9781927277331

Reviewed by Rebecca Gray, author of The First Door that Opened