Tanya Tagaq, an Indigenous Canadian, is a multi-award-winning throat singer and experimental musician. She grew up in Ikaluktutiak, Nunavut and published her first and to date only book Split Tooth in 2018. In 2020 it was translated into German under the title Eisfuchs (translated by Anke Caroline Burger).
It tells the story of a young indigenous woman growing up in Nunavut in the 1970s. Alongside encounters with friends, many moments in the Arctic tundra and the discovery of her own spirituality, the book tells of sexualised violence, trying out drugs, and the experiences she makes at residential schools. Tagaq used her personal diaries, poems and short stories from the last 20 years as a foundation for her writing. In this way, her book resists genre categorization and moves steadily back and forth between memoir and fiction, between novel and poetry.
Duality is also what characterizes the story of the young woman. She moves between dream and reality, birth and death, community and individuality. This duality is also reflected in the image of the Arctic tundra, which Tanya Tagaq describes so movingly and intuitively that the reader feels the meaning for the Inuit. In contrast to this is the destruction of nature for profit and the first noticeable consequences of climate change. In this way, Tanya Tagaq gives an insight into what it means to grow up as an indigenous person in a colonised country where the culture has been suppressed for centuries.
Split Tooth addresses many important issues that, although the story is set in the 1970s, have lost none of their relevance. Tanya Tagaq skilfully weaves these into one another, at all times easily avoiding the danger of becoming too much, too overwhelming. She moves effortlessly back and forth between harsh reality, Inuit myths and deeply personal poetry.
Split Tooth is also available as an audio book. Read by Tanya Tagaq herself, she adds traditional Inuit throat singing to the coming-of-age story, turning the book into a unique sound experience.
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