The life-changing power of reading and literature is explored in this year’s compelling Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Pānui (formerly the Book Council Lecture).
The organisation is thrilled to announce that Ōtaki playwright Renée (Ngāti Kahungunu) will deliver its 2021 address If you don’t get your head out of a book, my girl, you’ll end up on Queer Street.
Born in 1929, Renée identifies as a ‘lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals.’ As a leading dramatist, poet and fiction writer, most of her writing is a direct expression of those convictions.
She is best known for her trilogy of plays, Wednesday to Come (1985), Pass It On (1986) and Jeannie Once (1991), which follow four generations of working-class New Zealand women.
In her Pānui, If you don’t get your head out of a book, my girl, you’ll end up on Queer Street, Renée will reflect on the books that shaped her, proving the transformational powers of reading. Books led Renée to discover ‘Queer Street,’ a scene filled with community, education and action:
‘On Queer Street, we had to struggle and march and smile and shout, we had to sit and talk and argue, we had to read and tell our stories, we had to write a new ending and we had to heal ourselves.’
In 2017, Renée received the Playmarket Award for significant contribution to New Zealand theatre, and in 2018 she was awarded the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.
Read NZ Te Pou Muramura CEO Juliet Blyth says it’s an honour to have Renée write and deliver this year’s Pānui.
“Her candid recollections of experiences told through the lens of a lifetime of reading speak to an early life of hard work and hardship unknown to most of us,” she says.
“Known for her wit and humour, her kindness and her n’er give up approach to life, Renée is an example and an inspiration of a life well-lived, with reading at its centre. We can’t wait to share this with you in November.”
If you don’t get your head out of a book my girl, you’ll end up on Queer Street affirms the life-changing power of reading and knowing each other through our stories.
Renée is the latest in a line of writers to deliver Read NZ’s provocative annual talk that includes Lani Wendt Young, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Ben Brown and Joy Cowley.
Renée’s Pānui will be held at the National Library auditorium on November 10 at 6 pm. Entry is free, but seats are limited so bookings are essential. Tickets will be made available to the public on October 20.
Audio and ebook versions of Renée’s Pānui will be available for free public download on Read NZ’s website on November 10.