Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff's harrowing vision of his country's indigenous people 200 years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.
"Duff (himself the son of a Maori mother and a white father) shows amazing facility with language in the intense, fast-paced, choppy internal monologues he gives his characters.... Duff shows courage in attacking the view that assimilation is the first step out of poverty, and he does so by spinning a compelling tale." (
"Alan Duff's first novel bursts upon the literary landscape with all the noise and power of a new volcano." (Michael Gifkins, New Zealand Listener)
"This is the Haka, the rage of the people who, yes, once were warriors.... A kick to the guts of New Zealand's much vaunted pride in its Maori/Pakeha race relations. A breathless, fearless debut." (Witi Ihimaera)
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Interweaves Maori violence, softness & community