Narrative ethics is a useful tool for approaching New Zealand historical fiction about
family history because it looks to the risks and losses of appropriating family for the
author, their subjects, and readers. In the following critical analysis I discuss three
recent New Zealand novels based on family historical narratives, each of which
depict characters attempting to write their own stories within power structures that
threaten to silence them: Alison Wong’s As The Earth Turns Silver (2009), Paula
Morris’s Rangatira (2011), and Kelly Ana Morey’s Bloom (2003).
For a writer a narrative ethics analysis ensures they acknowledge the ethical
implications of their work, not just for their own family, but for collective
understanding. My novel Inherited Body fictionalises an incident from my family’s
history about mental health and sits alongside a contemporary narrative that seeks to
understand the possible causes of a psychotic break.
A narrative ethics analysis has highlighted my dual role as reader/critic and writer.
Wayne C. Booth’s discussion of narrative ethics emphasises the connection between
writer, character and their readers. Adam Zachary Newton expands on this
transactive connection and shows the ethical consequences of narrating story and
fictionalising people, and the reciprocal claims connecting teller, listener, witness
and reader in that process. As a reader, I took on an ethical responsibility to
understand the texts, and as a writer, I attempted to understand the effect of my
characters and readers of the book’s content. Connecting my critical and creative
components with a narrative ethics framework ensures that I see both sides of