Counter Culture
May 6, 2018 posted by Unity Wellington

AFTERGLOW: Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pakeha History – Peter Wells

AFTERGLOW: Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pakeha History – Peter Wells

Thursday 3rd May –

Red letter days have been flowing in thick and fast at Unity Books recently, and hot on the heels of Tuesday’s in store government policy announcement on GST on imported goods, Thursday saw the excitement ramped up further for a discussion and signing of Peter Wells’ new memoir Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History.  Peter Wells was joined in conversation by Unity Books’ Tilly Lloyd.

Dear Oliver centers around author and historian Peter Wells’ discovery of a cache of letters among his elderly mothers effects. Retracing the stories told in these correspondences, Peter realised he had a unique opportunity not only to retrace his family history, sharing the experiences of his mother, but also to construct a novel and striking way to view the history of Pākehā New Zealanders.

Once Tilly had introduced Peter and the concept behind the book to the assembled audience, Peter walked us through some of the details of the story as well as his aspirations in writing Dear Oliver. Peter spoke about the process of his mother moving towards an acceptance of his sexuality and the revelations contained in some of the letters surrounding her own personal life in earlier years. Peter also talked about his wish to create a context for discussing the Pākehā immigrant experience, something that can be challenging for a population uneasy with it’s own historical legacy.

Tilly Lloyd was quick to praise the book and keen to discuss Peter’s experience growing up as a ‘poofter’ in small town New Zealand, raising more than a grin behind the microphones. The floor was opened up to questions, which included an enquiry as to whether Napier was grateful for the attention Peter’s writing had brought it. Peter was hopeful that the answer was a yes and is clearly very fond of the place he described in memory as a ‘small wee colonial town’.

In closing proceedings Tilly Lloyd was joined by Unity Books co-owner Jo McCall for a special announcement…

A more than healthy lunch time crowd was in attendance.

Tilly Lloyd asks the tough questions.

Peter Wells.

‘What did you just call me!?’

Author Pip Desmond was keen to join the queue to get her copy of Dear Oliver signed.


On the (belated) occasion of Unity Books’ 50th Birthday it was our pleasure to award Peter Wells the Unity Books 50th Birthday Literary Award. Peter joins fellow author Patricia Grace as a recipient of the award (and a cheque) in recognition of their extensive body of work and long-span social justice activism.


Jo McColl joins Tilly Lloyd for a special presentation.

Peter Wells on receipt of the Unity Books 50th Birthday Literary Award.

Thanks to Peter from Unity for joining us on this special occasion.

Jo McCall, Peter Wells & Tilly Lloyd.


Dear Oliver is available now, in store and at Unity Books Online.

Words and Pictures John Duke

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