Media release: Legacy by Whiti Hereaka

Maori Sons Go To War

Wellington-based writer Whiti Hereaka launches her third novel Legacy, a thrilling and realistic story of being in the great war. Fans will be captivated by the time-travel adventure and experience a sense of connection with the characters who represent real-life soldiers.

‘Whiti has a wonderful way of describing the realities of war that remind you of the grittiness, determination and emotions that our soldiers would have experienced,’ says Eboni Waitere, Executive Director at Huia Publishers.

The new book is a time-slip young adult novel that follows a modern-day teenager back in time to World War One. After a freak accident, seventeen-year-old Riki Pūweto wakes up in Egypt, in 1915, where he finds himself serving as his great-great-grandfather in the Māori Contingent. He tries to make sense of daily army life and live amongst the men in his squadron and at the same time find a way home.

Whiti’s aim for the novel is to bring to light the stories of the young Māori men who served in the Māori Contingent. ‘I was quite familiar with the Māori Batallion from World War Two, but I hadn’t heard of the Māori Contingent, and that piqued my interest,’ she said. ‘I went off and I did some research, and I found all these great stories. And I thought, why don’t I know these stories?’ she continues.

The time travel aspect of the novel allows readers a way into history. ‘Growing up, you hear about the Anzac story, but for me it was a Pākehā story in a way,’ Whiti said. ‘I hadn’t seen or heard about the Māori or the Pacific Islanders that served in World War One,’ she continues.

Whiti looked to oral histories for her research, and these helped her get a sense of the daily army life – the mateship, humour and fear – and the personal experiences of being in the army and in battle. Whiti also drew on her playwright background to include transcripts of interviews with Riki’s great-great-grandfather throughout the book to portray the real human stories. ‘I was really interested in how it felt to be there and the human connections that people had,’ Whiti said.

Whiti hopes that young people who read this book will see the human story of war and the effect it had on their tipuna (ancestors), whānau (family) and their own lives.

Legacy will be launched on Sunday, 23 September at the NZSA National Writers Forum in Auckland.

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Legacy

Legacy by Whiti Hereaka, $25