I woke up with Moses Henry’s boot holding open my jaw and my right eye was looking into his gun barrel. I heard the slow words, “Take. It. Back.” I know one thing about Moses Henry; he means business when he means business. I took it back and for the last eight months I have not uttered Annie Mukluk’s name.
In strolls Annie Mukluk in all her mukiness glory. Tonight she has gone traditional. Her long black hair is wrapped in intu’dlit braids. Only my mom still does that. She’s got mukluks, real mukluks on and she’s wearing the old-style caribou parka. It must be something her grandma gave her. No one makes that anymore. She’s got the faint black eyeliner showing off those brown eyes and to top off her face she’s put pretend face tattooing on. We all know it’ll wash out tomorrow.
— from "Annie Muktuk"
When Sedna feels the urge, she reaches out from the Land of the Dead to where Kakoot waits in hospital to depart from the Land of the Living. What ensues is a struggle for life and death and identity. In “Kakoot” and throughout this audacious collection of short stories, Norma Dunning makes the interplay between contemporary realities and experiences and Inuit cosmology seem deceptively easy. The stories are raucous and funny and resonate with raw honesty. Each eye-opening narrative twist in Annie Muktuk and Other Stories challenges readers’ perceptions of who Inuit people are.
“Fiction solves the problem of other minds, by cutting readers directly in on the thought and being of other people. If it has a moral purpose it is this: to give us empathetic understanding of other people, many of them very different from ourselves, in gender, and culture, and race…. I liked this book very much, for its rich characterization, for its liveliness in dialogue, and most of all for the window it presents on another form of consciousness, one to which a unique world of spiritual beings is very near.”
"A successful short story takes us to unfamiliar places, and the 16 stories in this collection certainly fill that bill. It’s a journey deep into Inuit life, with tales of Inuk of all shapes, genders and ages. The title story is at turns funny, violent and cunning: Jimmy tries to convince best friend Moses to stay away from the glorious Annie Muktuk, an arnaluk (naughty woman, according to the glossary) who will cause him grief. [Full article at https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2017/11/24/new-reads-for-short-story-lovers.html]
"Inuk writer Norma Dunning’s debut collection passed under the radar of the big awards despite being the year’s best short fiction collection. The stories infuse Inuit myth with reality, explore the effects of colonialism, and delve into settler-writer portrayals of Inuit, all told with heart and humour that is infectious." Michael Melgaard, on his No. 1 book of 2017, [Article at http://nationalpost.com/entertainment/books/np99-24-2-best-books-of-2017]
"As the author's bio explains, Dunning was raised in Southern Canada, but 'When she began to write about her own ancestors, her Inukness became evident.' It is indeed evident in these stories… It is a thoroughly contemporary collection, however – the literary equivalent of the Annie Pootoogook portrait that graces its cover."
# 9 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, May 06, 2018
# 6 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, October 01, 2017
# 10 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, October 22, 2017
"Although [Dunning] deals with serious contemporary realities for Inuit people, she manages to work in moments of humour that flesh out her characters, making them fully realized and complex.”
"I love Norma Dunning’s Annie Muktuk and Other Stories. The similarities are striking between Maori and Inuit ways of referencing ancestors, landscape, relationships, spirituality, mythology, and the social cultural political issues we face as tangata whenua (Indigenous people). Her representations of trauma, love and grief with clever narrative twists are fantastic, as are the acts of revenge. She writes of sacred ancestral knowledge, informed by ancient spirits." [Full article at http://press.futurefire.net/2018/02/interview-with-iona-winter.html]
# 5 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Fiction, December 01, 2019
# 7 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, April 15, 2018
"Annie Muktuk and Other Stories expounds on Inuit women empowerment. The collection comprises both happy and sad stories, a mixture of present day and the past, and has a touch of humour." [Full article at http://www.windspeaker.com/news/windspeaker-news/indigenous-artists-break-free-of-the-limits-of-the-small-box/]
"Norma Dunning's debut short story collection is sensitive, intelligent and intense. Right from the first story, 'Kabloona Red,' in which an Inuit women knocks back cheap red wine whenever her white husband is away, Dunning writes about authentic experience. The narrators are first person or closely focused third, so the Inuit characters' confusion and pain as they struggle to maintain individual and cultural identifies are felt directly.... Strong currents of anger and courage propel the Inuit characters. They are survivors.... I loved this book."
# 7 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Fiction, December 08, 2019
# 10 on Edmonton Fiction Bestsellers list, September 24, 2017
"This whole collection is fantastic, but the story with the bad trip is 'Husky', inspired by the life of trapper and HBC Factor "Husky" Harris whose visit to Winnipeg with his three Inuit wives, Tetuk, Alaq and Keenaq, is written about in history books. In the story, naturally, the group and their children make an impression at their hotel, and the racism of hotel staff leads to a fight that lands Husky in the hospital. The violence doesn't end there and the women are further victimized—but then they enact the most beautiful justice." [Full article at https://49thshelf.com/Blog/2017/08/14/The-13-Worst-Holidays-in-Canadian-Literature]
"When I read the article, 'What inspired her was getting mad,' about the story behind Norma Dunning’s debut collection, Annie Mukluk and Other Stories, I was not surprised. Acts of justice and revenge factor throughout the book, propelling the stories so terrifically. Dunning wrote her stories in response to ethnographic representations of Inuit people that neglected to show them as actual people, and the result is a book that’s really extraordinary. Because her people are so real, people who laugh, and joke, and drink, and have sex (and they have a lot of sex)." [Full post at http://picklemethis.com/2017/08/02/annie-muktuk-and-other-stories-by-norma-dunning]
"Dunning’s stories, nuanced and deeply felt, reach deep into the heart of what it means to be Inuit, into the sacred place where the songs of the north are still sung, visions are still seen, and the spirits still speak. From this place, it is possible to laugh at those who come to destroy. From this place, dignity is maintained and the connection to the turning of the seasons is unbroken. Together with grief for what has been lost, there is power and light in these stories." [Full review at https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/annie-muktuk-and-other-stories/]
"Norma Dunning’s debut short story collection takes us out of our mundane lives into one that is raucous, humorous and spiritual.... Dunning has written a powerful book, the short stories depicting the way of her people, how they once lived and now live in the presence of the white world. She regales her audience with tales funny and sad, harrowing yet uplifting. But most of all she places the stories on the page to show that she and her people matter.... They are full of Native humour, full of knowing. They are stories full of survival..." February 27, 2019 [ Full review at http://www.prairiefire.ca/annie-muktuk-and-other-stories-by-norma-dunning/#more-4178]