Holly Walker

Holly wrote a collection of essays that explored the ripple effects of trauma on family, identity, and motherhood.

PhD awarded 2022

Holly is a nonfiction writer based in Lower Hutt. She came to the IIML from politics and the public sector, having been a Green MP from 2011-2014 and Principal Advisor at the Office of the Children's Commissioner from 2014-2019, and now works as Deputy Director of the Helen Clark Foundation alongside her PhD. Her first book, The Whole Intimate Mess (Bridget Williams Books), a short memoir about her experience of having a baby while an MP, was published in 2017. Her essays and reviews have been widely published and she appears regularly on RNZ.

Holly has a BA in English and Politics from the University of Otago and an MPhil in International Development from the University of Oxford, which she undertook on a Rhodes Scholarship. She lives in Petone with her partner and two young daughters.

Again and again it surfaced, the sentimental fantasy that love is a condition of simple benevolence, a tranquil, sunlit region in which we are safe from our own destructive urges. But everyone knows that love is brutal. … Love tears right through to the centre of us, into our secret self, and lays it wide open.

– Helen Garner, This House of Grief

Holly says: 'My project was about family: the unconditional love between family members, where it comes from and how it changes (or even emerges) in response to traumatic events. Through a series of themed essays, I explored the ripple effects of a traumatic event on my own family, identity, and mothering. It was also about exposure, bringing the unsaid and unseen to the surface to see how it changed when exposed to the light.

'The essays encompassed both the critical and creative components of my thesis, with a particular focus on Australian author Helen Garner, who writes with courage and clarity about love, trauma and relationships in both her fiction and nonfiction.'

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