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…and here is the breakdown of fiction published in New Zealand in 2015, by the gender and ethnicity of the authors (as far as I can make out).

In terms of gender, women dominate in the fiction stakes, with 44 fiction books by women published in 2015 (59% of titles) compared with 30 men (40%). The ‘Other’ category refers here to a book jointly authored by a man and a woman.

Here is the pie chart:

gender fiction 2015

In non-fiction, the proportions are reversed, with 13 titles (62%) by male writers and 8 (38%) by female writers (see below). So it kind of balances out. If you add fiction, non-fiction and poetry together, 82 titles were by women, 83 by men and one by both. Yay, right? (Note: I’ve left out a few categories, like Drama and Criticism, but included Letters & Autobiography).

NZ Non-fiction by gender

An analysis by ethnicity, however, tells a miserable little tale indeed.  Here is the pie chart for fiction:

2015 fiction by ethncity

Yep, that’s right, with 68 titles, Pakehā writers got 91% of the pie; Māori writers and Asian/Indian writers got 4% each with 3 titles apiece and Pasifika writers got 1%, with a single title (ie Albert Wendt wrote a book).

By way of comparison, in 2014, 88% of fiction titles were by Pakehā writers, 7% by Māori writers, 5% by Asian/Indian writers and none by Pasifika writers.

And for non-fiction, 85% of titles (18 in total) were written by Pakehās and 5% (1 title each) by a European/Jewish writer, a Māori writer and a Pasifika writer.

Non-ficiton by ethnciity 2015

How do I know what ethnicity everyone is, I hear you cry. Well, I don’t know for sure. I visit at least 3 websites (author pages and so on) and look for clues. So there may be some undercounting. If a writer does not describe themselves as Māori, Asian or Pasifika and does not mention an iwi affiliation, I have counted them as European/Pakehā.

One last pie: all fiction, non-fiction & poetry titles for 2015. 90% of titles were by Pakehā, 4% by Māori and 2% each by European/Jewish, Pasifika and Asian authors. What a lot of pie…

All titles 2015

For the record, I’m female and Pakehā (I was born in the UK and grew up in England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was twelve.) Two of the books published in 2015 were mine.

I put this analysis together because it matters to me. Fairness matters. Having a national literature that represents our national population matters. Being able to read a diverse range of voices matters. Also, I’m curious (in more ways than one) and like playing with spreadsheets 🙂

My source for the books published in 2015 is the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Previous posts on this subject can be found here:

I couldn’t help myself. I had to go through the fiction list as well. Then the non-fiction. And what an interesting result. The 2014 list of New Zealand books (the latest available from the Journal of Commonwealth Literature’s annual round-up) shows that 44 (or 59%) of the 75 New Zealand fiction titles published in 2014 were written by women, significantly more than those written by men (who wrote 31 fiction titles, or 41%).  If you take out children’s and young adult fiction, the gap narrows somewhat, with 56% of adult titles written by women and 44% by men.

I wondered if chaps were more likely to tackle non-fiction and this does indeed seem to be the case, with all 11 non-fiction books in 2014 having been written by men . It’s a little different when you add in Letters & Autobiography and Drama (see charts below).  And if you look at the whole lot together, ie all titles excluding poetry, it was very even, with 50% by men, 49% by women and 1% by both (ie multiple authors).

2014 non-fiction + fiction titles %

2014 non-fiction + fiction titles number


Ethnicity is a very different story. I only looked at fiction for this. A massive 88% of fiction titles were by Pakeha authors, 7% by Maori authors (better than I was expecting but still less than the proportion of Maori in the population) and 5% by Asian/Indian writers. No Pacific writers had fiction published in 2014. Not one.

2014 fiction titles


The usual disclaimers apply – for source and methodology, please see my blog on poetry titles .


Sometimes (in libraries or bookshops), poetry gets classified as “non-fiction”, which always interests me.  It seems to imply that it is real, true or factual.  Sometimes, of course, poetry is all these things and sometimes it is completely fictional or even absurd. 

Poets often play with the truth to make the poem better.  I’m thinking of a conversation between Sam Hunt and Hone Tuwhare that Hunt relates in his recently published memoirs “Backroads”.  He’s referring to Tuwhare’s poem “Flood” that finishes:

“Shall I be able to ford

the river soon: visit

a lean Aunt?”

Hunt says he asked “Who was your lean Aunt, Hone?” and received the reply “I don’t know; it may have been my mother.”

But, of course “visit my mother” wouldn’t work nearly as well as “visit a lean Aunt”.

So, it pays not to take poetry too literally.  Certainly, much of my own poetry is completely fictional, although I often weave reality and imaginings together.  I would be alarmed to think people were regarding some of the things I’ve written as factual, or that when I write about “she”, I’m always really  referring to myself.  For the record, I don’t suffer from trichotillomania (a complusion to pull out one’s hair).  Also for the record (because people sometimes think the “you” in my poems refers to my current partner), I don’t cook chicken for dinner for Peter and me.  Nor do I think for one moment that the astronaut artist Alan Bean is putting backyard dirt on his paintings.  I’m sure he is a man of integrity; the poem is purely speculative.

But most  poetry has a kind of truth about it, even when it’s not factual.  Does that make it non-fiction?  No more than a novel or a short story, perhaps.  I think poetry sits best in a category all of its own.

Speaking of poetry, tomorrow (Sunday 21st Feb 2010) is the first of the Ballroom Cafe monthly poetry sessions. 

Poetry Cafe, Wellington, NZ

Sunday 21 February 2010, 4pm – 6pm
Ballroom Cafe, cnr Adelaide Rd and Riddiford St, Newtown

This will be a regular Wellington event on the 3rd Sunday of the month – a mix of open mic, music & guest poets.  A fine complement to the regular Poetry Society gigs on Monday nights.  I’m looking forward to it!



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