Tawhai, Alice

Tawhai, Alice

In Brief

Alice Tawhai is a short fiction writer whose work is distinguished by its resonant and sensory imagery and its intimate portrayal of Māori and minority voices. She has published a number of short story collections with Huia Publishers, including Festival of Miracles (2005), Luminous (2007) and Dark Jelly (2011). Luminous was shortlisted for the Montana Book Award for Fiction in 2008. Her stories have been published in literary journals in New Zealand and Australia, and anthologised widely in New Zealand.


Tawhai, Alice ( –) is a short fiction writer. Her stories pay close attention to contemporary Māori culture as well as to the experience of ethnic minorities in New Zealand society. Critics have noted the strangeness and richness of her imagery, her unflinching treatment of difficult subject matter, and the transformative, often magical, nature of her vision.

Her first short story collection Festival of Miracles was published in 2005 by Huia. The collection received a special mention as one of three notable candidates for the Best First Book Award for Fiction in the Montana Book Awards 2006, and was listed as one of the ten best books of 2005 by the New Zealand Listener. ‘The freshest and most original new voice of the year,’ wrote reviewer Louise Wareham.

Tawhai’s second short story collection Luminous (Huia, 2007) was shortlisted for the Montana Book Award for Fiction in 2008, and again recognised by the New Zealand Listener as one of the year’s best books. Her third collection Dark Jelly was published in 2011 by Huia. Albert Wendt wrote of the book: ‘[I] recognized, with astonishment and envy, the unique and unusual way she sees and writes us and our society into existence’. He also called attention to Tawhai’s ‘dark and compassionate humour, and …huge love of language and storying.’

Tawhai’s work has been anthologised in the Best New Zealand Fiction series, in Lost in Translation: New Zealand Stories (Random House, 2010) and Some Other Country: New Zealand’s Best Short Stories 4th ed. (VUP, 2008). She was a contributor to Once Upon a Time, a collaborative online project for contemporary New Zealand fairy tales run by the Goethe-Institut New Zealand.


  • Alice Tawhai’s author page on the Huia website
  • Short story published as part of a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Grimm’s fairy tales, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut New Zealand
  • Landfall review of Dark Jelly (Feb, 2012)

Updated January 2017.