The title character in Norma Dunning’s short story collection, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, was inspired by reading an anthropologist’s characterization of Canada’s Arctic.
“He was portraying Inuit women as though they were something that was up for commodification,” Dunning said.
“When I read it, I thought, 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.”
In her collection, Dunning says she wanted to draw attention to inaccurate, but persistent, sexual stereotypes.
Dunning says the 16 stories in her collection are set in the recent past, so they can address the history of Inuit in Canada.
“For myself, what I know of my own Inuit people, and my own ancestors … regardless of our situations we are able to laugh and I think that has to come forward in the story as well,” she said.
“I tell the story of residential school and I tell the story of my grandfather, Husky Harris, even though the work presents as fictional, there is at least, at least, 95.5 per cent truth in what I’ve written.”
Fear of ‘recolonization’ can silence voices
Dunning says she’s always been a writer, but she felt the time had come for other people to see her work.
“In terms of the Canadian lit scene, I know other Inuit writers, they’re afraid to publish and they’re afraid to go through that process because we know what it’s like to be colonized and you don’t want your work re-colonized.”
Dunning is 58. She started her university education three months shy of her fifty-first birthday, and is now three years into a PhD.
During her bachelor’s in Native Studies at the University of Alberta, she picked up a minor in creative writing, which she says is when many of the stories in Annie Muktuk were…