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Her autobiographical novels about teaching in remote schools, and being culturally abandoned in a remote country, New Zealand, attained enormous international popularity in both literary and educational circles.
But she had an intensely ambivalent relationship with the land of her birth. Despite receiving many accolades in New Zealand, she claimed to have been rejected and persecuted by her homeland. In her darkest moments, she railed against New Zealand and New Zealanders, even stating in one television interview: "I'm not a New Zealander!"
This is the first book to make Sylvia Ashton-Warner's passionately difficult relationship with New Zealand its central focus. Its contributors argue that, rather than stultifying her, the country she decried produced Sylvia and her work. In addition, infant schooling in New Zealand in the post-war years was relatively radical and progressive, and education officials seemed to welcome Sylvia's ideas about literacy.
The edited collection includes chapters by Maori teachers and others who worked with Sylvia, as well as recollections of her son, Elliot Henderson. It reprints her Teaching Scheme that was originally published in New Zealand in the 1950s. And it celebrates her novels as brilliant and angry evocations of life in the wildness of New Zealand.
Posted August 17, 2009
This book has given me the opportunity to know Sylvia Ashton Warner more intimately than I have been able to do from reading other texts over the last 30 years. The way the authors have invited a number of people to write a chapter depicting a different aspect of her life, has made the book a very comprehensive window into the world that Sylvia lived in.
The second chapter is a reprint of Sylvia's Teaching Scheme that was published some fifty years ago. NZ education was undergoing tremendous educational reforms at the time and Sylvia's work was at the cutting edge of this. Her work is as relevant today as it was then, and if you are a teacher working with 3-8 year olds there will be much of interest to you.
The book is an easy read and I would encourage you to get a copy.