Annie Muktuk and Other Stories by Norma Dunning
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was mentioned on the Best Reads of 2017 Reading Envy Podcast episode and then Lindy included it in a package of books from Canada, so I pretty much knew this book was required reading. And for my Canada-Alaska reading goal in 2018, it counts for a territory in Canada I hadn't touched yet - Nunavut.
Any of the facts I'm spouting about the author and the background to these stories comes from this excellent interview with her from the CBC.
I felt like these stories were different and wanted to understand why. Dunning had been writing for years and shoving her stories into a drawer. She said a lot of Inuit authors write but are afraid of their stories being colonized. She first thought to look into publishing after reading an anthropologist's take on the Inuit, and her reaction was, "Why is it that aboriginal women are never in charge of their own sexuality? Why are we presented as women who can be used? So that's where Annie came from — what inspired her was getting mad."
And there is definitely a theme of women owning their sexuality in these stories. These are not from American or Canadian sensibility, and I really appreciated that peek into the world.
When the author talks about being a Southern Canadian Inuk, she means anything south of official Inuit territories. The story "Annie Muktuk" is set in Churchill, Manitoba, which is the "polar bear capital of the world" (and you can see in this feature by Google Maps. Her mother was born in Whale Cove, Nunavut, although she herself did not grow up there. (Check out this interactive Inuit Nunangat Map from the Indigenous and Native Affairs Office in Canada.)
Some of the stories go back farther in time, and some are present-day. One is based on stories she heard about her grandfather while others are based in her own life. She's giving the name "story" but feels the majority are stories she has been told. Many of them include the same characters and are linked together, but not all.
Themes include survival, sexuality, family, Inuit vs. white people (these are usually hilarious), mythology and magic, and more. There's so much in the 200 pages, I can see why I've seen this so highly recommended. I loved it.
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