By Sarah Potts
Hello, out there! My name is Sarah. I am the librarian assigned to work for and with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation publishers in the Legal Deposit section of Library and Archives Canada. In this program, we have the opportunity to work with publishers and authors to build a national collection that reflects the fabric of Canada. The best part of my job is getting to read new and old classics by my favourite authors and works by others I have not encountered before. Today, I am excited to share with you a few of my top picks from Inuit authors in the collection.
What’s my Superpower?
In 2019, What’s my Superpower?, a book by Aviaq Johnston, was turned into an animated film. The film, which premiered at the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival, was produced by Taqqut Productions, a media company based in Iqaluit. What’s my Superpower? is about Nalvana, a little girl who thought she was the only kid who did not have a superpower.
This book is vital to the collection because it connects with kids of all ages, me included. It speaks to a feeling we all have had at one time: the feeling that we are not unique, that we are just ordinary and boring. Of course, this is not true! We each have a trait or way of being unique to us, a superpower, no matter how small. What’s my Superpower? teaches us that kindness is free and that we should be kinder to others and to ourselves. (Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) 994209423) (Age range: 4+)
Another recent publication we received was bilingual. Written in French and Inuktitut, Mamaqtuq!, written by The Jerry Cans and illustrated by Eric Kim, shares a story about hunting for seal. The content is easy to follow and accessible to everyone. In case you are not familiar with them, The Jerry Cans are an Iqaluit-based band whose music features Inuit throat singing and folk rock. The book Mamaqtuq! is beautifully illustrated, and The Jerry Cans have a song by the same name on one of their albums. (OCLC 1090062562)
The book and its authors challenge common misconceptions about the seal hunt. Mamaqtuq! takes you on a most compelling adventure. I felt completely immersed and included in the friend’s journey. I also immediately downloaded the latest album released by The Jerry Cans. I hope you find the time to listen to their music, too. (Age range: 6+)
Another book I want to tell you about is Taaqtumi. The title translates to “the dark.” This short-story collection incorporates the writing of well-known authors like Aviaq Johnston and Gayle Kabloona. The stories relate the journeys of several characters through a snowstorm. This book certainly leaves you checking behind you or jumping at anything that goes bump in the night! If you are like me and like horror but in doses, this is the perfect book for you. (Age range: 12+)
The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab: Text and Context
Content warning: extreme acts of colonial violence, offensive language that may cause harm, images of deceased, death
The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab was written in 1880 but was not widely accessible until 2005. This book is among the earliest written material by an Inuk in Inuktitut. It records the experience of Abraham and eight other Inuit who were living in Labrador before being brought to Europe to be put on display at a human zoo. It is one of the few accounts of someone held in Carl Hagenbeck’s human zoo. The author and his family never made it home; they succumbed to smallpox in 1881. This book is important because it refutes the belief that Inuit were illiterate before meeting southern settlers in the 1950s. (OCLC 61258817) (Age range: 17+)
Le harpon du chasseur (Harpoon of the Hunter)
At the time it was first printed, in 1969, it was one of a few books by an Inuk man to be published in Canada by a major publisher. The author, Markoosie Patsauq, led a remarkable life: he was a pilot, government translator, community advocate and leader. He passed away in May 2020.
Le harpon du chasseur is a coming-of-age story, where the narrator comes to grip with loss, colonization and thoughts of suicide. The content can be challenging to read because it is very raw. However, the story shows the resilience of its characters and the importance of community in trying to overcome adversity. A new English translation (Hunter with Harpoon) is also available. (Age range: 17+)
Unikkaangualaurtaa = Raconte-moi une histoire : voici 26 histoires et chansons du Nunavik accompagnées de suggestions d’activités pour les jeunes enfants (OCLC 710886602)
The main aspect of this book is that it is an educational resource for teachers working in Inuit communities throughout Canada. It contains 26 stories written by elders that serve to educate both teacher and student. Each of the 26 stories is considered a classic and includes suggested activities like crafts to do after reading. (Age range: 3+) (OCLC 1032020866)
“The Caribou taste different now”: Inuit Elders Observe Climate Change
Welcome to Pond Inlet, Nain and Baker Lake, just a few of the remote communities located in the Arctic. These communities share one common theme: they all feel the most significant impact of climate change. “The Caribou taste different now” shares the knowledge of 145 elders who have watched the Arctic transform, permafrost melt, new flora begin to take over and, critically, migration patterns of wildlife change. Elders speak about how climate change impacts traditional ways of life and what they believe can be done to stop it. (Age range: 17+) (OCLC 945583292)
This post barely scratches the surface of the knowledge that authors have shared in their writing. Do you want to learn more about books by Inuit authors available in your area? Check out your local library, and, if you are in Ottawa, book an appointment and visit us once restrictions are eased! You can also search our catalogue, Aurora.
Writer’s note: This blog would not be possible without the assistance and feedback of Heather Campbell, a former LAC employee, and Jennelle Doyle, an archivist with Listen, Hear our Voices. Heather now works for the Inuit Art Foundation. Heather and Jennelle are from Nunatsiavut, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sarah Potts is an acquisitions librarian in the Legal Deposit section of the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.