Short story collection by Inuk author Norma Dunning wins one of Canada’s top fiction prizes

“Norma Dunning’s masterful storytelling uses astute detail to incite compelling characters who meet the prejudice, misogyny and inequity of the Canadian South with humour and tenacity,” says a statement on Governor General’s Literary Awards website. (Courtesy Norma Dunning)

Inuk writer Norma Dunning has won one of Canada’s top literary prizes for English-language fiction.

Dunning was announced the winner of the Governor General’s Literary Awards for English-language fiction on Wednesday for her short story collection  Tainna – The Unseen Ones.

Tainna: The Unseen Ones is an explosive force of sadness, anger, humour and beauty, full of moments that surprise and pummel and still provide hope,” the peer assessment committee, made up of Kristen den Hartog, Chris Eaton and Suzette Mayr, said on the Governor General’s Literary Awards website. 

“This collection is both vivid and raw but infused with a sparkling poetry and the wisdom of the old ways. Like the spirits Norma Dunning describes in these stunning and original stories, this is a book that will never leave you.”

The stories feature different Inuit characters spanning different ages and life experiences.

“Like the spirits Norma Dunning describes in these stunning and original stories, this is a book that will never leave you,” the Governor General’s Literary Awards jury said. (Governor General’s Literary Awards)

“Norma Dunning’s masterful storytelling uses astute detail to incite compelling characters who meet the prejudice, misogyny and inequity of the Canadian South with humour and tenacity,” says a statement on Governor General’s Literary Awards website.

Dunning is a writer and academic living in Edmonton, Alberta. Her previous books include Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, the poetry collection Akia: The Other Side and the non-fiction book Eskimo Pie: A Poetics of Inuit Identity.

$25,000 prize

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are administered by the Canada Council for the Arts. 

Each year, prizes are given out to both English- and French-language poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama, young people’s literature (text), young people’s literature, as well as English to French and French to English translation.

Five finalists are chosen in each category.

Winners receive $25,000 each, and their publishers receive $3,000 to help promote the winning books. Each finalist in the categories receives $1,000.

The complete list of the 2021 winners can be viewed on the Governor General’s Literary Awards website.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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Greenland: Nunavut children’s books translated for circulation in Greenland’s schools, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Can cross-border cooperation decolonize Sami language education?, Eye on the Arctic 

United States: Inuit leaders applaud UN move to designate International Decade of Indigenous Languages, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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