The Unity Books 50th Anniversary Literary Awards

Unity Books has marked its 50th Birthday by honouring two New Zealand authors with awards worth $20,000 each for their extensive body of work and for their long-span social justice activism.

The recipients of the Unity Books 50th Birthday Literary Awards are Patricia Grace and Peter Wells. 

‘As Unity turned 50 years old we asked afresh: who matters most to us in the world of books? The customers? The publishers and trade? Reviewers and opinion-makers? Old and new media? We decided it was authors. And specifically, this year we wanted to thank two authors for not just their enduring literary bodies of work, but their long-span social justice influences. Combined, these two endeavours by these two authors – Patricia Grace and Peter Wells – have shaken and shaped us, and helped Unity Books flourish,’ says Tilly Lloyd, co-owner / manager Unity Books Wellington.

‘Through their significant bodies of work – in literature and wider spheres – these authors have pushed for what Aotearoa NZ is and could be about.

‘We deeply respect them. Their strong sense of social justice (Patricia’s in Māoritanga and land rights, and Peter’s in LGBTIA visibility) combined with their literary achievements has nourished, sustained, and encouraged Unity Books.’

Tilly Lloyd Patricia Grace, Jo McColl, , Anne Harris, Kieren Grace, Marion Castree
Tilly Lloyd, Patricia Grace, Jo McColl, Anne Harris, Kieren Grace, Marion Castree


Patricia Grace (1937 – ) is a novelist, short story writer and children’s writer, Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa descent, and affiliated to Ngati Porou by marriage. Grace began writing early, whilst teaching and raising her family of seven children. She has since won many national and international awards, including the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for fiction, the Deutz Medal for Fiction, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (widely considered the most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel). A deeply subtle, moving and subversive writer, Grace received in 2007 a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to literature. Author of fiction, most recently of Chappy, short stories, children’s books, and nonfiction, significantly Wahine Toa, and Ned & Katina.

Peter Wells (1950 – ) is a writer of fiction, most recently Lucky Bastard, and nonfiction including biography and history, and a writer/director in film. His fiction looks at a world of secrets, identity, subterfuge and illusion, frequently using the lens of a gay narrator. His first book, Dangerous Desires, won the Reed Fiction Award, the NZ Book Award, and PEN Best New Book in Prose in 1992. His memoir won the 2002 Montana NZ Book Award for Biography, and he has won many awards for his work as a film director. He is co-founder of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. In 2006, Wells was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and film. He is a memoirist, most recently of Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pakeha History, and writes the Hello Darkness blog on the Spinoff.

The awards were presented on 2 and 3 May 2018. Recipients receive $20,000 each.  


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