Iñupiaq author and illustrator’s book “Eagle Drums” sells out at book signing

Iñupiaq author and illustrator’s book “Eagle Drums” sells out at book signing
Published: Sep. 17, 2023 at 8:33 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A culturally rich and significant book — hot off the presses — quickly sold out Sunday afternoon during a book signing event at the Title Wave Books store.

Inupiaq author and illustrator Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson released her first full title “Eagle Drums,” which took nearly a decade and a half to complete, the author said.

Hopson was joined by her family and friends who celebrated the publication of her book, which had an official release on Tuesday. An earlier version of the book ran in 2016, specifically for the North Slope Borough School District, as well as another small, self-published print. The Sept. 12 printing of the book includes 50 additional pages and is more widely available.

“Eagle Drums” is a mythological story, geared towards middle schoolers, and has a narrative of how Inupiaq people formed music, dance, community, and tradition.

“Eagle drum is a mythological tale, it’s about the origins of the messenger feast, that’s held every couple of years in Utqiaġvik,” Hopson said. “The feast was revised in the 80s. Part of that revitalization is talking about how we got dance and song and feasting and community, that sort of thing.”

Hopson said she used the messenger feast tradition as inspiration, and built it into a written account, infused with modern-day Inupiaq culture. The main theme of the book, Hopson said, is the importance of interacting and celebrating with others, despite their differences, and how it can be detrimental if people don’t exchange culture and ideas. All of the illustrations and drawings throughout the book were created by the author.

At the book signing event, Hopson heard in-person feedback about how people were receiving the book. Hopson said that was nice since she doesn’t always get access to in-person feedback, since she’s from sparsely populated areas, such as the rural city of Point Hope. Hopson was born in Barrow, now known as Utqiaġvik.

“It feels amazing,” Hopson said. “It’s very odd and a different feeling that I’ve never felt before. I mean, honestly it’s so unique putting so much work into an item and then the item goes live and people [are] able to peer into my brain.”

Representation of Alaska Native culture in literature is significant, Hopson said.

“The material that we had in the 90s was few and far between and so I know what it’s like to not have anything to see myself in, to be a mirror for my culture and it’s very detrimental in the way that I, in turn, internalized that maybe where I come from, my history and my culture is not important because I don’t see it anywhere,” Hopson said.

The number of Indigenous authors in America has increased slightly in the last couple of years, Hopson said, but she said she hopes to see more.

“I know from a native perspective, who grew up rurally, to be able to see myself in a book is incredibly important just for how I view myself and how I view my culture and my history,” Hopson said. “I hope It translates when people read it because these are basically love letters to myself as a child.”

Hopson said she’s one of the few Iñupiaq children’s book authors.