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Reviewed by Cassidy Grace, Assistant HOD of English, Hamilton Girls' High School, Hamilton
Opening sentence
Join the korerō.
'Ngā Kupu Wero' shares the perspectives and non fiction work of 60 contemporary Māori writers. Each piece of writing discusses issues and challenges that Māori face in our current society. This book is a companion piece to 'Te Awa o Kupu', which is an anthology of poetry and fictional prose again by contemporary Māori writers.

The novel starts with an explanation from Witi Ihimaera, the editor, of what a wero is and explains that the writers in this piece are “word warriors”. Ihimaera issues the challenge to the reader to join the kōrero and help to make our world better.

The book is organised into four parts and the structure is easy to follow. Scattered throughout are pitopito korerō which I found to be little gems adding to the idea that we need to challenge issues facing Māori now. Whakautu are also spread throughout asking the questions “What are the main problems facing Māori today?" and "how can these problems be addressed?”, which offer more invaluable insight and solution focused answers to dealing with issues such as landlessness and trauma.

As a teacher, there are many parts of this book which can be taught and offer ākonga the opportunity to learn about important perspectives. For example you could teach the novel “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and then look at it from an Aotearoa perspective with Moana Maniapoto’s interview with Angela Davis on eradicating racism. The possibilities are endless.

As a Māori, this book has reaffirmed some of the hurt and challenges I have faced. Māmari Stephens writes about the pressures put on the only Māori in the room which reaffirms my struggles within the workplace. Vini Olsen-Reeder discusses privilege and language trauma and how with time you can heal. All poignant messages that I didn’t realise I needed to hear.

With everything that is happening in Aotearoa today, this book is a timely reminder to accept the challenge put forward by Ihimaera and continue to stand up against those who want to silence Māori voices. Toitū te Tiriti!
Author & Illustrator: Edited by Witi Ihimaera
Publisher: Penguin, NZ
ISBN: 9780143778615
Format: Paperback
Publication: Jul 2023
Ages: 16+
Themes: Voices of Māori, challenges faced by Māori