Grise Fiord memoir passed over for GG literary award

Nunavut’s Larry Audlaluk, a first-time author, was a finalist for the prize

Larry Audlaluk’s memoir of his family’s forced relocation to Grise Fiord, What I Remember, What I Know: The Life of a High Arctic Exile, is his first-ever book. (Photo courtesy of Matisse Harvey / Radio-Canada|CBC)

By Madalyn Howitt

Sadiqua de Meijer of Kingston, Ont., has won the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction for her book alfabet/alphabet: a memoir of a first language.

The book tells the story of Meijer’s transition from speaking primarily Dutch to primarily English and touches on migration, identity, family and the intricacies of language and culture.

Her book was chosen over Nunavut author and activist Larry Audlaluk, 71, who was shortlisted in the same category for his memoir What I Remember, What I Know: The Life of a High Arctic Exile. The book details Audlaluk’s life after he and his family were forced by the federal government to relocate from Nunavik to the High Arctic.

Facing harsh environmental conditions, social isolation and little access to food, Audlaluk’s family struggled to survive in what would come to be known as Grise Fiord.

Audlaluk told Nunatsiaq News in October he was compelled to write the book after realizing there was little information about his family’s and others’ experience with forced relocation to the High Arctic.

He said he hoped that sharing the story of how Grise Fiord was formed and how it survived will draw attention to the issues the community and others like it still face.

Audlaluk said his memoir will soon be translated into Inuktitut, and that he plans to write more stories about life in the High Arctic.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by L’ill Bill on

    Call it sour grapes but I think if this is a Canadian Governor Generals Award that it should be awarded to a person of native Canadian heritage. Even though I admit I don’t know all the details of the person who won the prize I think a piece of history like what Mr. Audlaluk and others had to endure being dropped off in places like Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay and forgotten by the Canadian government should be given a bit more consideration. I wouldn’t say the winners past was as difficult as the Inuit dropped off in the High Arctic.

    • Posted by Just stop on

      It’s a literary award… do you always need to have the field slanted in your favour? Can you achieve nothing without that?

      • Posted by Danielle on

        Some of the most insightful, reflective and imaginative literary works I have ever read has been developed by indigenous authors. I am very confident in saying that no “slanting in favour” is needed, lots of pure, raw talent in that literary community.

        • Posted by Slanty Slant on

          “Just stop” is not doubting that Indigenous authors can produce insightful, reflective and imaginative literary works. Their issue with L’ill Bill’s comment is that L’ill Bill is saying the award should be given to a person of native Canadian heritage because the winning author’s story was not as difficult as the Inuit dropped off in the High Arctic.
          “Just stop” is saying that this is a literary award that is awarded to a Canadian that produces the best literary work, it is not an award to whoever had the most difficult backstory. Narrowing the scope down to a “native Canadian” who had a more difficult experience is definitely slanting the field in their favour.

          • Posted by Danielle on

            I read it a different way, the tone of the comment is condescending and comparative.

            • Posted by Just stop on

              You are right, Danielle, in that the comment was condescending. Because, to me, the original comment is deserving of contempt.

              Yet nothing I said or meant to say suggests or even thinks indigenous authors are any less deserving or talented than anyone else. Slanty Slant made my point well, probably better than I did for that matter.

              Clearly Mr. Audlaluk has produced a great work here, or it would not have made it this far. I did not mean to diminish that in any way. I should like to read this book someday, I am sure it will be enlightening to me.

  2. Posted by Valentin Teresch on

    To be nominated for a GG’s literary award is a huge honour, placing Mr. Audlaluk in the very top tier of Canadian writers. Sincere congratulations to the author – the nomination alone will ensure than many thousands of Canadians will read this important story.

  3. Posted by Lise Vautour on

    I consider myself fortunate to have read Larry’s book it is extremely heartbreaking to learn of all the sacrifices and struggles they had to endure during the beginning and I am ashamed that the Government was so controlling and unforgiving towards the Inuits. The Inuit history and the stories of their relocation should be tauch in Canada schools so that ALL Canadians know and understand what happened.

  4. Posted by Curt Petrovich on

    I’m glad to read that Larry has written and published his own story – one which undoubtedly speaks for many, many Inuit. I met Larry in the 1980s when, as a young qallunaat journalist I lived and worked for more than six years in Nunavut. When it fell to me to produce a national holiday special for CBC, I knew immediately that I wanted Larry to host it, from Grise Fiord. The story of the so-called relocation, and the hardship experienced by those at the centre of that bizarre experiment in sovereignty was certainly part of the content we produced, thanks to Larry, but nearly 40 years later, I’m quite certain there’s a generation of southerners who likely have never learned this part of history. Not having read Larry’s book, nor the one chosen by the judges, I can’t offer any opinion as to the reason for the selection. I can say that as an author and journalist myself, I know how fickle award judges can be. But now having learned of Larry’s book, I intend to buy it and read it.

  5. Posted by Russell Potter on

    Larry’s memoir speaks a powerful truth to power. No award — or lack of an award — can add or subtract anything to his extraordinary accomplishment.

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