Two Inuit writers, Norma Dunning and Larry Audlaluk, CM, are nominated for this year’s Governor General’s Literary Awards for their respective books.
Dunning’s story collection, Tainna: The Unseen Ones, Short Stories (Douglas & Mcintyre), is nominated in the English-language fiction category. It is up against four other titles, including Rachel Cusk’s novel, Second Place, and Joe Ollmann’s graphic novel, Fictional Father.
The Edmonton, AB–based author, who wakes up every day around 4 AM, has an early-morning ritual of first checking her email. As Dunning was about to log off on October 14, the message announcing her nomination arrived. “I took a big breath and burst into tears,” she writes by email. “I am so very grateful and the shock and amazement will take a few days to disappear!”
Tainna is Dunning’s third book. “This collection not only reflects on Inuit who reside in the south and the lack of visibility we have, but also on the ancestors who remain with us and get us through each and every day,” she says. “I wanted to write in opposition of Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, my first collection, which had most stories set in long ago. Inuttigut – We the Inuit, We are here.”
Dunning (whose writing will appear in the upcoming Winter 2021 issue of Inuit Art Quarterly) is no stranger to literary awards. In 2017, Annie Muktuk won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story and the bronze prize for short stories at the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. She says she’s attracted to the story form because “you have to write tight – every word matters, every sentence has to stand on its own. Writing in a way that forces every single comma, small or large word is having to write with precision.”
Audlaluk was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2007 for his advocacy and leadership in his community of Ausuittuq (Grise Forde), NU. His memoir, What I Remember, What I Know: The Life of a High Arctic Exile (Inhabit Media), is up for the English-language Non-fiction prize. What I Remember, What I Know is nominated alongside four other titles, including Ivan Coyote’s Care of: Letters, Connections, and Cures.
Audlaluk’s publishing debut recalls his experiences as a young child in the 1950s after his family was one of seven selected to relocate from Nunavik to the High Arctic as a government experiment, and how official reports failed to recall the hardships and challenges to survival the families faced in the harsh climate.
As nominees, Dunning and Audlaluk will each receive $1,000, and their titles are now in the running for the $25,000 prize awarded to the winner in each of the 14 categories. Winners will be announced online at ggbooks.ca on November 17.
A ceremony celebrating the winners will be held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, ON, at a later date, during which Governor General Mary Simon—the first Inuk to hold the position—will present the awards.