“A Way of Talking” is a short story written by Patricia Grace. It tells the story of Hera, who is eagerly awaiting her wedding, and her sister Rose, who returns home from studying at university in Auckland to take part in the wedding.
Hera and Rose are both Maori. The theme of cultural identity is explored throughout the narrative.
When Rose first returns home from university, her family is initially concerned that she may have given up her Maori cultural identity. Those concerns are quickly quelled once she makes them laugh with her “way of talking.” Even though she has entered a new environment with different cultures, Rose has maintained her identity. Her family loves her for that.
Shortly after Rose’s return, the sisters visit Jane Frazer, the local seamstress. Jane is defined as a “Pakeha,” which is a disparaging term for those of European ancestry.
In this short story, individuals are defined first by their culture. Their interactions are dictated by how their broader cultures interact. When the Maoris spend time together, they are happy and joyful. But when Rose interacts with Jane, Hera can tell the situation is a tinderbox. When Jane makes a disparaging comment against other Maoris, Rose immediately stands up for the unknown Maoris. She feels her identity as a Maori is also under attack.