By Toni Duval
I found the theme this month challenging because of the focus on the format of the novel. A quick Google search of “northern Canada” or “Inuit” will reveal a list of current stories by fabulous authors but few stories are written as novels. If you have not already heard of the “first Inuit novel” Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk (available on Audible Canada), please do check it out! I recommend listening to the audiobook version of “Sanaaq”, narrated by Tiffany Ayalik, in order to hear the Inuit words pronounced aloud rather than guessing at pronunciation. The book challenges the conventions of a “traditional” novel, and after reading the article “Book sheds light on what it means to be Inuk” by Pitseolak Pfeifer, I realized the meaning that can be lost during translation. Our whole idea of the “novel” is something that needs to be re-imagined. This is something to consider when reading Curved Against the Hull of a Peterhead, a debut collection of poetry by Taqralik Partridge, which, although poetry and not technically a novel, also makes it onto this month’s list.
As a teacher librarian in a middle school I found two other books that will fit well in our collection for this month and support our goal of including voices and perspectives that may be new to suburban students. I believe both stories will be enjoyed by readers of any age because they are anchored in history and mysticism, and give the reader a sense of the vast history of the north of Turtle Island. While not a novel, I believe Richard Van Camp’s variety of stories come together to create a collection that is eclectic, fantastical and funny.
Those Who Run In The Sky, by Aviaq Johnston
Piturniq (Pitu) is a young seal hunter predicted to be the next shaman of his community. He is a loyal family member and a leader in his community. When he becomes lost in a blizzard he enters the spirit world and encounters creatures he’s only heard of in stories. Can he use his powers as a shaman to survive and return to his family? This coming-of-age story weaves Inuit culture, myths and traditions into an adventure story for all ages.
Skraelings, by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
Stick with this story, it’s worth it. The start of the story is disorienting to the reader because the world-view of Kannujaq, a young wandering Inuit hunter, is narrow. He spends much of his time alone so when he comes across a Tunit camp under threat of Vikings he needs to quickly pick sides. This historical fiction story relies on Inuit traditional knowledge and ancient magic. This fast-paced exciting story imagines how first contact may have played out in the real world.
Curved Against the Hull of a Peterhead, by Taqralik Partridge
With the warm ring of the spoken word at their centre, Taqralik Partridge’s poems wrestle with colonisation and racial violence while also reflecting rich sensory imagery—from the stain of blueberries, to the relationships of sisters and aunts, to a knowledge of the land. Originally from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Quebec, and now living in Kautokeino, Norway, Taqralik Partridge is an Inuk textile artist, curator, writer, and spoken word poet. This is her debut poetry collection.
Night Moves, by Richard Van Camp (Available on Audible Canada)
As a window into the magic and potential of the Northwest Territories, Richard Van Camp’s fourth short-story collection is hilarious and heartbreaking. A teenaged boy confesses to a vicious assault on a cross-dressing classmate; Lance tells the sensual story of becoming much closer to his wife’s dear friend Juanita; while a reluctant giant catches up with gangsters Torchy and Sfen in a story with shades of supernatural and earthly menace.
Night Moves continues to explore the incredible lives of Indigenous characters introduced in The Lesser Blessed, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go, and Godless but Loyal to Heaven. If this is your first time to Fort Simmer and Fort Smith, welcome. If it’s another visit, come on in: We’ve left the lights on for you.