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D&M author wins GG

December 02nd, 2021

Douglas & McIntyre author, Norma Dunning has won the 2021 General Governor’s Award for Fiction for Tainna: The Unseen Ones (D&M $19.95), her collection of short stories about Inuit experiences in the Canadian South.

Dunning says her book “is an honouring to all Inuit who live outside of their land claims areas and who face modern-day life with humour and tenacity and with the strength of the giants that we are.”

Ranging from spiritual to jaded, from homeless to extravagantly wealthy, from young to elderly, and even from alive to deceased, Dunning’s characters are united by shared feelings of alienation, displacement and loneliness. And they must rely on their wits, artistic talent, senses of humour and spirituality for survival.

In Tainna—meaning “the unseen ones” and pronounced Da‑e‑nn‑a—a fraught reunion between sisters Sila and Amak ends in an uneasy understanding. From the spirit realm, Chevy Bass watches over his imperilled grandson, Kunak. And in the title story, the broken-hearted Bunny wanders onto a golf course on a freezing night, when a flock of geese stand vigil until her body is discovered by a kind stranger.

“I receive a great many highly racial comments when I identify and at times, I can find it all very ridiculous while also very sad,” said Dunning when asked why she wrote Tainna.

“Unfortunately, Inuit are often thought of as a somewhat happy yet simple people but we are brilliant and sophisticated. Inuit women remain exoticized and at the same time treated as less-than, which eliminates all of our hard work and successes.

“When I wrote Tainna I was thinking about the many thousands of Inuit Canadians who live beyond the tundra and the reactions that are issued to us daily and how very wrong it all is. I was also thinking of poverty and the very dark side of southern life which is rarely exposed. I thought it was time to bring that reality forward.”

Norma Dunning with her award-winning book.

Norma Dunning’s first short story collection, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories (University of Alberta Press, 2017), received the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story and the Bronze for short stories in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. She is also the author of Eskimo Pie (Bookland Press, 2020), a bestselling collection of poetry.

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