Keri Hulme Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, Keri Hulme identifies not with her primarily “Pakeha” (European) family, but with the Maori, the culture of her maternal grandfather, Tommy Rakakino Mira. The Maori, a Polynesian racial group indigenous to New Zealand, figure prominently in all Hulme’s writings, both poetry and prose. Reticent in discussing many of the details of her early life, Hulme has said that she was raised with a strong sense of her Maori cultural background and that she developed a keen interest in their language and stories. It is this cultural background that gives her writing its sense of foreign mythos.

After having lived exclusively with her parents and having grown up comparing the radically different cultures of her Christchurch relatives and her Oamaru, Moeraki, and Purakanui family, Hulme left home and moved to Motueka in 1965 to work picking tobacco. It was at that time that the eighteen-year-old Hulme heard colloquial Maori for the first time and met North Island Maori, whom she had previously thought to have existed only in stories. Inspired by her contacts with the native populace, Hulme proceeded to write a short story which would form the nucleus of her best-known work, The Bone People.

Keri Hulme held a number of menial jobs (including fishing and cooking) until, at twenty-five, she settled down exclusively as a writer in Cobden, Greymouth. In 1982 she published her first book of poetry, The Silences Between: Moeraki Conversations, exploring the unique rhythms and concepts within the Maori tongue. She was, and continues to be, impressed by the delicate shadings of meaning inherent in the understanding of her grandfather’s language; she finds words in themselves to be powerful and...

(The entire section is 726 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Keri Hulme was born on March 9, 1947 in Christchurch, New Zealand, to a mother of mixed Maori and Scots heritage and an English father. Her...

(The entire section is 303 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Armstrong, Philip. “Good-Eating: Ethics and Biculturalism in Reading The Bone People.” Ariel 32, no. 2 (2001): 7-27. Explores the ramifications of biculturality in both reading and writing Hulme’s novel.

Benediktsson, Thomas E. “The Reawakening of the Gods: Realism and the Supernatural in Silko and Hulme.” Critique 33, no. 2 (1992): 121-131. Examines “ruptures” in literary realism in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Hulme’s The Bone People.

Fee, Margery. “Keri Hulme.” In International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers, edited by Robert L. Ross. New York: Garland, 1991. Calls The Bone People part of a postcolonial discourse that challenges values established by imperialist powers. Discusses Hulme’s use of traditional narrative frames, which tease the reader into expectations that Hulme then ignores or reshapes.

Stead, C. K. “Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, and the Pegasus Award for Maori Literature.” Ariel 16 (October, 1985): 101-108. Provides a thoughtful critical discussions of feminist and Maori implications for The Bone People.

Tacon, Shana. “Waves from the Shore: Women Writing the Sea in Oceania.” Hecate 26, 2 (2000): 160-170. Hulme is one of several writers whose water imagery is analyzed.

Wilentz, Gay. Healing Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-Ease. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000. Hulme is one of several authors whose depiction of mental illness and its healing is discussed.