Wednesday, 1 October 2014

October newsletter

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Three new titles in October

Give Us This Day: A Memoir of Family and Exile
by Helena Wiśniewska Brow
In 1944, Stefan Wiśniewski, one of the 732 exiled Polish children, was offered unlikely refuge in New Zealand in 1944. Stefan and eight family members were among the many hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians who were deported by the Soviets from Eastern Poland in 1941, enduring forced labour and starvation in Siberia before fleeing south to central Asia and, finally, Iran. New Zealand offered wartime shelter to a group of these refugees, almost all of them orphaned children, who were educated and cared for firstly at a camp in Pahiatua and later in New Zealand secondary schools. Some of the Polish children would later re-settle in Europe or elsewhere, but most – including Stefan and four of his brothers and sisters – stayed and raised families in New Zealand.

In her first book, the manuscript of which won her the Adam Prize in 2013, Helena Wiśniewska Brow maps her father's terrible journey, and the miseries and triumphs of his family’s adjustment to life In New Zealand.

"What intrigued me was not so much what happened – my father’s life turned upside down by forces beyond his control – or even why," she says. "I wanted to find out how an experience that was over by the time he was 14 years old has defined him ever since. Seventy years after his arrival in New Zealand, I wanted to look at the impact that trauma had on him, on his family and on the people whose lives had intersected with his."

Helena says she always knew the story of her family’s past had to be written.

"The result is a very personal story, as all memoir is, but I hope there’s a common truth in it. I hope it’s one that any survivor, or child of a survivor, Polish or otherwise, might recognise."
Give Us This Day, hardback, $40. Available for purchase from October 3.

We launch Give Us This Day at Unity Books on Monday 13 October, 6pm–7.30pm. All welcome.

Helena will be in conversation with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand National this Saturday 4 October.

Helena is also taking part in the 'Celebrating Everything Polish' Festival being held at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea from 25 October–2 November. More details here.

by Fleur Adcock 
Fleur Adcock's new poetry collection, The Land Ballot, is also a family memoir. It traces a story that will be familiar to many twentieth century New Zealand settlers. Says Fleur:

"Early in 2012 I suddenly began to realise what an extraordinary story it was: two people from Manchester with their 10-year-old son travel to the other side of the world to turn themselves into dairy farmers; they have no farming experience; they arrive at the beginning of a war, are unable to buy land in the normal way because of currency restrictions and other problems, take their chance in a ballot and after several vain attempts find themselves with 150 acres of untouched native bush halfway up a mountain."

She says the process of writing the story in poetry rather than prose allowed her to see it in a series of snapshots.

"Sometimes I used the voice of my father himself, sometimes in extracts adapted from the local newspapers and sometimes simply in my imagination, trying to think myself back into that vanished community and totally altered landscape."

She says she unearthed huge amounts of factual material in researching the story.

"I'm an obsessive researcher, but gossip is a great resource. And of course I knew these people; anything I learned could be measured against my memories of them."
The Land Ballot, paperback, $30. Available for purchase from October 3.

"Hold on to your hat!" That was how one China specialist greeted the news that the Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee was meeting in Beijing in November last year (2013). He shared the excitement that many felt at the prospect of the Plenum bringing the winds of change to Chinese policy-making. Chinese President Xi Jinping – also General Secretary of the Communist Party – and Premier Li Keqiang were still relatively new to their jobs, having been selected in 2012. The Plenum seemed just the chance for them to push Chinese reforms on to a higher stage, resolving some of the intractable difficulties that had arisen in the country’s extraordinary rush to wealth during previous decades.

This book is based on the conference that the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre held on 2 July this year (2014). The conference brought together an outstanding group of China specialists and speakers. The main part of the conference consisted of three panels: one on governance and society, one on economic and financial affairs, and one on the Plenum’s international and regional implications, including for New Zealand. Some of the speakers at the conference gave papers, while others spoke from notes. This book consists largely of transcripts of the conference’s main presentations, as approved by the speakers concerned. It is divided into three main parts corresponding to the three panels of the conference. It serves as a record of the conference and, we hope, a stimulus to future discussion.

China at the Crossroads, paperback, $40. Available for purchase from October 3. 


Buried treasure

Each month we're going to profile one or two titles from our backlist that we love, think relevant or want to sell some copies of because we think you might like them.

For a limited period (beginning to end of that month) we will offer a 50% discount on 'buried treasure' feature titles purchased at the VUP online bookstore.

This month's buried treasure:

 Kicking the Tyres
edited by Jon Johansson and Stephen Levine
$50, p/b, October special $25

After each election since 1987, VUP have published papers and essays delivered by political academics, media and polling analysts, and politicians at a post-election conference giving an overview of the recent election campaigns. These books have become essential reading for those seeking to understand what just happened and why. Expect the 2014 general election book next year.

Sample quotes:

"A Fairfax Media-Research (2011) poll on 2 October even found Key to be the politician most trusted to babysit the children."
–Jennifer Lees-Marshment

"With the exception of Māori Television, female pundits tended to be interrrupted more frequently and enjoy less speaking time than their male counterparts."
– Corin Higgs

"In the wake of the 2011 election, Māori politics is best described as fragmented."
– Morgan Godfery

by Danyl Mclauchlan
$35, p/b, October special $17.50

A pundit (and biologist) whose blog dimpost is well worth following, Danyl Mclauchlan is also a fiction writer and author of New Zealand's leading comic-mystery-erotic-horror-adventure novel. Set in Wellington's Aro Valley, Secrets follows an unlikely hero, a down-on-his-luck writer named Danyl, as he attempts to unravel the Machiavellian plots of cult leader Campbell Walker. For those who like their adventure stories funny, fast and meta-local – look no further than Unspeakable Secrets.

sample text:
Steve sneered. ‘And do you just believe anything the corporate mainstream media tells you?’
     Danyl checked the byline. ‘This story ran in the Aro Valley Community Volunteers Newsletter.’
     ‘Exactly. Whose tune do they dance to?’
     Danyl chose not to reply. He flipped through the rest of the clippings. There was nothing of any interest: all the details of the case were suppressed. Danyl felt a rising sense of indifference. Did any of this matter? Parsons seemed like a horrible guy, and Danyl inadvertently stole his box. Parsons took it back and destroyed Danyl’s spare room, presumably out of vengeance, possibly because that’s just how black magicians did things. And maybe Stasia was involved, somehow, and maybe she wasn’t. ‘Seems like we’ve reached a dead end,’ he said. ‘Without the clues in the box we have nothing to go on.’
     ‘Not if we storm Parsons’ house. Ransack it for clues. Take back the box—’
     ‘Forget it.’ Danyl rolled up the news clippings and handed them back to Steve. ‘I’m a writer, not a criminal.’

Each month we offer a giveaway to our subscribers. If you want to be into win, subscribe to our newsletter here. You will receive these from November. Subscribers also receive invitations to our book launches.



Events in October

Event launch
Lit Crawl

Launch of Lit Crawl
on Thursday 2 October, 5.30pm
at Vic Books,
Kelburn Campus,
(RSVP to | Limited space left!)

Book launch
Give Us This Day

by Helena Wiśniewska Brow
at Unity Books
Monday 13 October
All welcome.

Elizabeth Knox
Talk on 'Intention and Experience'

at the Petone Library, Britannia Street, Petone
Wednesday 15 October
7pm start
Entry: Koha


VUP in Auckland event
Geoff Cochrane will be making his first literary appearance in Auckland,
in conversation with
Fergus Barrowman at the City Central Library
46 Lorne St, AK CBD
Tuesday 4 November




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