Why this book?
This is an ancient, novel-length tale of a hero in the Alaska wilderness near the dawn of time, confronting the cruelty and grief endemic in a world in which survival always hangs on the luck and skill of the hunter. Oman, who died in 2018 at 102, told me 30 years ago about holding onto the Qayaq story, even through the years when her cultural practices were effectively outlawed. She grew up at a time in Kotzebue when her father, a shaman, could only tell the ancient stories of her Inupiaq people at night, in secret, vouchsafing them with her for another generation. As an adult she continued collecting them, and then, in her old age, published this graceful and haunting story, which seems to reach to us from another world.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
This is a splendid presentation of an ancient northern story cycle, brought to life by Lela Kiana Oman, who has been retelling and writing the legends of the Inupiat of the Kobuk Valley, Alaska, nearly all her adult life. In the mid-1940s, she heard these tales from storytellers passing through the mining town of Candle, and translated them from Inupiaq into English. Now, after fifty years, they illuminate one of the world's most vibrant mythologies. The hero is Qayaq, and the cycle traces his wanderings by kayak and on foot along four rivers - the Selawik, the Kobuk, the Noatak…