Becky Manawatu is journalist and novelist, currently living in Westport on the West Coast of the South Island. She is the author of the acclaimed novel Auē, which won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction as well as the Hubert Church Prize for Best First Book of Fiction at the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Manawatu, Becky (1982- ) is a journalist and novelist of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mamoe, Waitaha and Pākehā descent. She was born in Nelson and raised in Waimangaroa on the West Coast of the South Island.
Together with her husband, a professional rugby player and coach, Manawatu lived in Frankfurt, Germany and in Italy for a number of years before returning to the West Coast with her family.
Manawatu’s short story Abalone was longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2018, and an essay, ‘Mother’s Day’ was selected for the Landfall anthology Strong Words.
Manawatu began writing her first novel, Auē, while living in Frankfurt, and first approached publisher Mary McCallum of Mākaro Press in 2016. She continued it in Nelson under the working title Pluck, submitting chapters to McCallum over a year.
Auē was published in 2020 by Mākaro Press. Auē is the story of orphaned Arama, who is deposited in rural Kaikōura with relatives, and his brother Taukiri, a young man fending for himself in the big smoke.
In a review in Landfall, Arihia Latham wrote: “Manawatu has an ability to write grisly, horrifying details yet also keep one eye on our hearts. She builds tangible characters that have beauty and wonder, bright dreams and enduring strength, alongside others that you wish she could unwrite.”
Auē won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction as well as the as well as the Hubert Church Prize for Best First Book of Fiction at the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
The judges remarked: “There is violence and sadness and rawness in this book, but buoyant humour, too, remarkable insights into the minds of children and young men, incredible forgiveness and a massive suffusion of love. With its uniquely New Zealand voice, its sparing and often beautiful language, the novel patiently weaves the strands of its tale into an emotionally enveloping korowai, or cloak.”
International co-judge Tara June Winch wrote: “There is something so assured and flawless in the delivery of the writing voice that is almost like acid on the skin.”
Auē also won Best Crime Novel and was shortlisted for Best First Novel at the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards. It was the best-selling New Zealand novel of 2020.
Manawatu won the 2021 Robert Burns Fellowship to work on her next novel, titled Papahaua, in Dunedin.
Manawatu works as a reporter and columnist for the smallest independent daily newspaper in Aotearoa, The News, in Westport.
Updated August 2021.