Entertainment | Book Awards

Kāi Tahu writer takes out fiction award at New Zealand book awards

Emma Hislop receives her award. Photo / Penny Hartill, Hartill PR

First-time author and Kāi Tahu uri Emma Hislop has won the 2024 Hubert Church Fiction award for her book Ruin and Other Stories .

“I don’t write to win awards, and I don’t think many writers do,” Hislop says. “I did feel proud.”

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s literary honours for works written by New Zealanders. The Mātātuhi Foundation Best First Book Awards recognise first-time authors, including the Hubert Church Award for Fiction.

The book Ruin and Other Stories is a collection of stories that demonstrate control over situations, characters and language. It also shows how power manifests itself.

Hislop says she wrote the book while pursuing her masters of creative writing at Te Herenga Waka.

“There are quite a few terrible men in the book. I’m a generation X kid, so I kind of grew up in the time where consent wasn’t really a word we used a lot. it’s not an easy read but largely the violence in the book happens off the page.”

“I’m really interested in complicated relationships and writing about those and the way in which power can present itself in lots of different ways.”

Hislop’s whakapapa is influential within her writing. Her whakapapa traces back to Kāi Tahu through her father’s side and she is currently reconnecting with whānau and iwi despite living away.

“I think we always knew as we grew up knowing that we were Māori and, that we were from Kāi Tahu.”

“Our marae is at Puketeraki. My dad is the Maori side and our tupuna is Motoitoi. Just in the last few years, I’ve been trying to make more connections with whānau down there. Obviously living up in Taranaki, it’s expensive to get down there but we’ve had a few opportunities to go down with Dad and my sister.”

The work does not stop here for Hislop. She is currently working on a new novel that draws influences from her Kāi Tahu roots.

“It’s set in an art gallery and still concerned with power and looking at the art gallery as a sort of historical site of colonialism. That’s probably all I can say about it at this stage.”

(Emma Hislop delivering a speech at the NZ Book Awards following the win for her novel, ‘Ruin and other stories’) Photo / Penny Hartill of Hartill PR

Ruin and Other Stories Photo / Emma Hislop