Albert Wendt was born in Apia, Samoa. Wendt's epic Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1979) won the 1980 New Zealand Book Awards. He was appointed to the first chair in Pacific literature at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. In 1988 he took up a professorship of Pacific studies at the University of Auckland. In 1999 Wendt was visiting Professor of Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. In 2001 he was made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to literature. In the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honours he was appointed a member of the Order of New Zealand.