The Long Exile, A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the high Arctic, Melanie McGrath -
In 1922, an Irish American adventurer named Robert Flaherty made a film about Inuit life in the Arctic. Nanook of the North featured a mythical Eskimo hunter who lived in an igloo with his family in a frozen Eden. Nanook's story captured the world's imagination.
Thirty years later, the Canadian government forcibly relocated three dozen Inuit from the east coast of Hudson Bay to a region of the high arctic that was 1,200 miles further north. Hailing form a land rich in caribou and arctic foxes, whales and seals, pink saxifrage and heather, the Inuit were taken to Ellesmere Island, an arid and desolate landscape of shale and ice virtually devoid of life. The most northerly land mass on the planet, Ellesmere is blanketed in darkness for four months of the year. There the exiles were left to live on their own with little government support and few provisions.
Among the group was Josephie Flaherty, the unrecognized half-Inuit son of Robert Flaherty, who never met his father. In a narrative rich with human drama and heartbreak, Melanie McGrath uses the story of three generations of the Flaherty family, the filmmaker, his illegitimate son, Josephie; and Josephie's daughters, Mary and Martha, to bring this extraordinary tale of mistreatment and deprivation to life.
And, Consumption, Kevin Patterson -
In Rankin Inlet, a small town bordering the Arctic Ocean, the lives of the Inuit are gradually changing. The caribou and seals are no longer plentiful, and Western commerce has come to the community through a proposed diamond mine. Victoria Robertson wakes to a violent storm, her three children stirring in the dark. Her father, Emo, a legendary hunter who has come in off the land to work in a mine, checks to see if the family is all right. So does her Inuit lover, as Victoria's British husband is away on business.
Thus the reader enters into the modern contradictions of the Arctic, walrus meat and convenience food, midnight sun and 24-hour satellite TV, dog teams and diamond mines, and into the heart of Victoria's internal exile. Born on the tundra in the 1950s, Victoria knows nothing but their nomadic life of the Inuit until at the age of 10, she is diagnosed with tuberculosis and evacuated to a southern sanitarium. When she returns home six years later, she finds a radically different world, where the traditionally rootless tribes have uneasily congregated in small communities. And Victoria has become a stranger to her family and her culture.
Victoria compounds her marginalization by marrying a non-Inuit, Robertson, the manager of the town store. Over the years, as her children gravitate toward the pop culture of the mainland, and as her husband aggressively exploits the economic opportunities that the Arctic offers, Victoria feels torn between her family and her ancestors, between the communal life of the North and the material life of the "South." Through Victoria, Kevin Patterson deftly exposes the costs and consequences of cultural assimilation, and the emotional toll that such significant lifestyle changes take on communities.
Spanning countries, generations, and cultures, Consumption is an epic novel of the Arctic and a penetrating portrait of generational division and cultural dissonance.
The Long Exile and Consumption should be read as companion pieces. The Long Exile is certainly a true horror story and the reader will recognize times and places, as well as the clash of cultures in Consumption. Quoting Publisher's Weekly, "Patterson seamlessly works murder, sex, and intrigue into the mix and offers a terrific cast that makes Arctic life, and the ties of kin, palpable. He delivers a searingly visceral message about love, loss, and dislocation."
See you at Rylander!