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Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller PrizeShortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel AwardShortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer PrizeWinner of the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for...
Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller PrizeShortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel AwardShortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer PrizeWinner of the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for...
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  • Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
    Shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award
    Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
    Winner of the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English
    Winner of the 2018 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design – Prose Fiction
    Longlisted for the 2019 Sunburst Award
    From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you've ever read.

    Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.
    A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents' love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol, and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her, and the immense power that dwarfs all of us.
    When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this.
    Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.
    Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.



  • From the cover 1975

    Sometimes we would hide in the closet when the drunks came home from the bar. Knee to knee, we would sit, hiding, hoping nobody would discover us. Every time it was different. Sometimes there was only thumping, screaming, moans, laughter. Sometimes the old woman would come in and smother us with her suffering love. Her love so strong and heavy it seemed a burden. Even then I knew that love could be a curse. Her love for us made her cry. The past became a river that was released by her eyes. The poison of alcohol on her breath would fill the room. She would wail and grab at us, kissing us, kissing the only things she could trust.

    Fake-wood panel walls, the smell of smoke and fish. Velvet art hung on the walls, usually of Elvis or Jesus, but also polar bears and Eskimos.

    The drunks came home rowdier than usual one night, so we opted for the closet. We giggle nervously as the yelling begins. Become silent when the thumping starts. The whole house shakes. Women are screaming, but that sound is overtaken by the sound of things breaking. Wet sounds of flesh breaking and dry sounds of wood snapping, or is that bone?


    There are loud pounding footsteps. Fuck! Someone is coming towards us. We stop breathing. Our eyes large in the darkness, we huddle and shiver and hope for the best. There is someone standing right outside the closet door, panting.

    The door slides open, and my uncle sticks his head in.

    Towering over us, swaying and slurring. Blood pouring down his face from some wound above his hairline.

    "I just wanted to tell you kids not to be scared." Then he closed the door.

    a day in the Life

    It's 9 a.m., late for school
    Grade five is hard
    Rushing, stumbling to get my pants on
    Forgetting to brush my teeth
    Dreading recess
    The boys chase us and hold us down
    Touch our pussies and nonexistent boobs
    I want to be liked
    I guess I must like it
    We head back to class
    The teacher squirming his fingers under my panties
    Under the desk
    He looks around and pretends he's not doing it
    I pretend he's not doing it
    He goes to the next girl and I feel a flash of jealousy
    The air gets thinner and tastes like rot
    School is over
    I leave for the arcade
    Watch out for the old walrus
    The old man likes to touch young pussy
    We try to stay away
    I wonder why nobody kicks him out
    Things are better at home now
    Three's Company and a calm air
    Archie comics and Lego

About the Author-

  • TANYA TAGAQ is an improvisational performer, avant-garde composer, and experimental recording artist who won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize for her album Animism, a work that disrupted the music world in Canada and beyond with its powerfully original vision. Tagaq contorts elements of punk, metal, and electronica into a complex and contemporary sound that begins in breath, a communal and fundamental phenomenon. While the Polaris Prize signaled an awakening to Tanya Tagaq's art and messages, she has been touring and collaborating with an elite international circle of artists for over a decade. Tagaq's improvisational approach lends itself to collaboration across genres, and recent projects have pulled her in vastly different directions, from contributing guest vocals to a F**ked Up song (a hardcore punk band from Toronto) to premiering a composition made for Kronos Quartet's Fifty for the Future collection, and composing a piece for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Tanya's most recent album Retribution was released in fall 2016.


  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2018
    This debut from acclaimed Inuit throat singer Tagaq (her album "Animism" won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize) is a shamanic coming-of-age journey through a haunted and mystical Arctic landscape.In 1975, a fierce and tomboyish 11-year-old Inuit girl growing up in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut discovers her shamanic powers at the onset of puberty. Wielding words as sharp as shale rocks and ice, Tagaq narrates the story from the unnamed girl's perspective with poems woven in between prose vignettes. In "The First Time it Happened," the girl describes the experience of falling into a trance, being attacked by a supernatural being, and the sensation of her "spirit self" leaving her body. Despite the threat of possession, she says, "I am not afraid, only curious. I don't feel like prey. I too am a predator." This empowering initiatory experience is the catalyst for a series of bizarre and delicious excursions into the spirit world which occur throughout her teen years. Her astral flights are a reclaiming of her spiritual heritage and the "shaman's way" as well as a means of escape from the drunks at home, school bullies, and the roving hands of her teacher. Her animistic view of the universe helps her cope with these everyday problems in terms of spiritual warfare. Sometimes the narrator's voice shifts to philosophical musings and words of wisdom that may seem far beyond the years of a teenager. When speaking of the rampant alcoholism in her family, she says, "There are evil beings in the room near the ceiling waiting to take over the drunken bodies, Grudges and Frustrations slobbering at the chance to return to human form, to violate, to kill, to fornicate." Finding solace in nature, she sings to the sky, and it is beneath the eerie green glow of the northern lights that she conceives with a mysterious celestial lover and is irrevocably transformed.A raw, powerful voice breathes fresh air into traditional Inuit folklore to create a modern tale of mythological proportions.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 29, 2018
    In her debut, Inuit throat singer Tagaq turns from sounds that evoke the North to writing stories that recall the often harsh realities of life in Nunavut in the 1970s. The book combines short fiction and poetry to weave together a coming-of-age story that sometimes reads like an exceptional young girl’s journal. The deceptively simple vignettes mix dreams, myth, and the quotidian occurrences of Nunavut life. Through the nameless teenage girl protagonist, the book covers the impact of the residential school system; the roles of family, ancestors, and elders; high school jockeying for social position; experimentation with drugs and alcohol; and teenage pregnancy. Perhaps the best encapsulation of the twin themes of beauty and danger in the work is the depiction of the land itself: “The land has no manners; you only obey and enjoy what is afforded to you by her greatness.” With lines such as “As peaceful as I wish to be, it certainly feels good to get drunk on violence” and “No one has taught us how to do this, but the ritual is old and living in our bones,” Tagaq’s genre-defying work establishes her as a careful, gifted wordsmith.

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