People of the Noatak

During five long visits to Alaska’s remote northwest coast to sketch and paint, the late Claire Fejes became guest and friend to the Native inhabitants there, learning their ways and customs. A personal narrative in text, drawings, and paintings, People of the Notatak concerns the people of two villages–Noatak, the summer settlement of a nomadic tribe that lives mainly in the wilderness interior, and Point Hope, whose economy centers around the hunting of the great bowhead whale.

Claire captures the life of the Native Inupiat in Northwest Alaska, before outside influences changed their lives. In a few simple strokes, her drawings evoke the heart and life of the Inupiat. Thanks in part to her habit of journal-keeping, Claire was able to record what she had witnessed in her years of travel and painting up the Yukon River into the Arctic Refuge.

A native New Yorker, Claire received her art training at the Newark Art Museum and taught art until moving to Alaska. She wrote with rare insight and understanding about the intimate daily lives of mothers and fathers and their children, of husbands and wives and in-laws in the villages in which she lived, an aspect of Eskimo life rarely treated in books.

Originally published in 1966, People of the Noatak is an excellent portrayal of the Inupiat people before modern changes, a glimpse into the Inupiat world when traditional values and roots were strong.

Blessing’s Bead

Nutaaq and her older sister, Aaluk, are on a great journey, sailing from a small island off the coast of Alaska to the annual trade fair. There, a handsome young Siberian wearing a string of cobalt blue beads watches Aaluk “the way a wolf watches a caribou, never resting.” Soon his actions—and other events more horrible than Nutaaq could ever imagine—threaten to shatter her I~nupiaq world. Seventy years later, Nutaaq’s greatgranddaughter, Blessing, is on her own journey, running from the wreckage of her life in Anchorage to live in a remote Arctic village with a grandmother she barely remembers. In her new home, unfriendly girls whisper in a language she can’t understand, and Blessing feels like an outsider among her own people. Until she finds a cobalt blue bead—Nutaaq’s bead—in her grandmother’s sewing tin. The events this discovery triggers reveal the power of family and heritage to heal, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Two distinct teenage voices pull readers into the native world of northern Alaska in this beautifully crafted and compelling debut novel.

Flower

When thirteen-year-old Katie learns that her stepmother is pregnant, she spends the summer at her grandparents’ Victorian home brooding, until the presence of an old-fashioned girl on her bedroom wall shares secrets of the real meaning of family.