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Fiction Literary

Split Tooth

by (author) Tanya Tagaq

Publisher
Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Category
Literary, Native American & Aboriginal, Magical Realism
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780143198055
    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price
    $19.99

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Description

Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award
Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Winner of the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English
Winner of the 2018 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design – Prose Fiction
Longlisted for the 2019 Sunburst Award
From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you've ever read.

Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.

A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents' love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol, and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her, and the immense power that dwarfs all of us.

When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this.

Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.

Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.

About the author

Awards

  • Long-listed, Sunburst Award For Excellence In Canadian Literature Of The Fantastic
  • Short-listed, Amazon Canada First Novel Award
  • Short-listed, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
  • Winner, Indigenous Voices Award - Published Prose in English
  • Winner, Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design – Prose Fiction
  • Long-listed, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Contributor Notes

TANYA TAGAQ is an improvisational performer, avant-garde composer, and experimental recording artist who won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize for her album Animism, a work that disrupted the music world in Canada and beyond with its powerfully original vision. Tagaq contorts elements of punk, metal, and electronica into a complex and contemporary sound that begins in breath, a communal and fundamental phenomenon. While the Polaris Prize signaled an awakening to Tanya Tagaq's art and messages, she has been touring and collaborating with an elite international circle of artists for over a decade. Tagaq's improvisational approach lends itself to collaboration across genres, and recent projects have pulled her in vastly different directions, from contributing guest vocals to a F**ked Up song (a hardcore punk band from Toronto) to premiering a composition made for Kronos Quartet's Fifty for the Future collection, and composing a piece for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Tanya's most recent album Retribution was released in fall 2016.

Excerpt: Split Tooth (by (author) Tanya Tagaq)

1975

Sometimes we would hide in the closet when the drunks came home from the bar. Knee to knee, we would sit, hiding, hoping nobody would discover us. Every time it was different. Sometimes there was only thumping, screaming, moans, laughter. Sometimes the old woman would come in and smother us with her suffering love. Her love so strong and heavy it seemed a burden. Even then I knew that love could be a curse. Her love for us made her cry. The past became a river that was released by her eyes. The poison of alcohol on her breath would fill the room. She would wail and grab at us, kissing us, kissing the only things she could trust.

Fake-wood panel walls, the smell of smoke and fish. Velvet art hung on the walls, usually of Elvis or Jesus, but also polar bears and Eskimos.

The drunks came home rowdier than usual one night, so we opted for the closet. We giggle nervously as the yelling begins. Become silent when the thumping starts. The whole house shakes. Women are screaming, but that sound is overtaken by the sound of things breaking. Wet sounds of flesh breaking and dry sounds of wood snapping, or is that bone?

Silence.

There are loud pounding footsteps. Fuck! Someone is coming towards us. We stop breathing. Our eyes large in the darkness, we huddle and shiver and hope for the best. There is someone standing right outside the closet door, panting.

The door slides open, and my uncle sticks his head in.

Towering over us, swaying and slurring. Blood pouring down his face from some wound above his hairline.

“I just wanted to tell you kids not to be scared.” Then he closed the door.
 

a day in the Life
 
It’s 9 a.m., late for school
Grade five is hard
Rushing, stumbling to get my pants on 
Forgetting to brush my teeth  
Dreading recess
The boys chase us and hold us down
Touch our pussies and nonexistent boobs 
I want to be liked
I guess I must like it 
We head back to class
The teacher squirming his fingers under my panties 
Under the desk
He looks around and pretends he’s not doing it 
I pretend he’s not doing it
He goes to the next girl and I feel a flash of jealousy 
The air gets thinner and tastes like rot
School is over
I leave for the arcade
Watch out for the old walrus
The old man likes to touch young pussy 
We try to stay away
I wonder why nobody kicks him out 
Things are better at home now
Three’s Company and a calm air 
Archie comics and Lego 
Goodnight

Editorial Reviews

Audiobook finalist for the 2019 Audie Awards (Literary Fiction & Classics category)
WINNER of the 2018 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design – Prose Fiction
SHORTLISTED for the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award
SHORTLISTED for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

“Tagaq’s surreal meld of poetry and prose transmutes the Arctic’s boundless beauty, intensity, and desolation into a wrenching contemporary mythology.”
—The New Yorker
“Though the protagonist’s coming-of-age story, generously and lovingly documented by Tagaq, is the anchor, Split Tooth is not a book that can be fully absorbed in one sitting. It’s possible to sink deeper and deeper into the narrative with each successive reading. Like a smirking teenager, Split Tooth blithely gives typical literary expectations the finger, daring us to see and experience narrative as chaotic, emotional, and deeply instinctive. And it succeeds.”
—Quill and Quire
“A raw, powerful voice breathes fresh air into traditional Inuit folklore to create a modern tale of mythological proportions.”
—Kirkus
“Tanya’s book is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read. It’s deeply profound, emotional and personal, and furthers her artistic experimentation and genius into a new realm. I love her even more after reading it, and I’m once again awed by her talent.”
—Jesse Wente, CBC Broadcaster

“[Split Tooth] straddles the line between memoir and fiction, prose and poetry, magic and harsh reality. . . [and] is infused with Tagaq's intimate knowledge of life in the Arctic.”
Oprah Magazine

[A] forceful coming-of-age tale.”
—Toronto Life magazine
“[Split Tooth is] one of the best things I’ve ever read. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. The last two pages of her book are just this whole beautiful piece about: I don’t want to forgive. But I forgive myself. I’ll pick it up every once in a while just to read that.”
—Elliot Page
“In [Tanya Tagaq]’s forthcoming novel, Split Tooth, there’s a chapter called “Ritual” that is such a distillation of childhood magic and refuge that it made me feel like I was reading Tove Jansson or Roald Dahl for the first time.”
—Sean Michaels, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of Us Conductors

“An ambitious and acrobatic blend of memoir, fiction, poetry, and dream journals.”
Refinery29
“Tanya Tagaq has written a book that should re-arrange the reader’s mind and very being in her astounding Split Tooth. She uses the narrative arc of a coming of age story to tell of coming of age in a northern, indigenous community that includes close experience of abuse, village violence, colonial exploitation, and also close kin ties, birth, death, a knowing of how we are really fed, an awareness of how small life can be, and how large … I look forward to putting this book in people’s hands.”
—Rick Simonson, owner of Elliott Bay Book Company

“[Split Tooth] boldly and cohesively mixes memoir, traditional folk tales, poetry and fiction to depict the humiliations and hilarities of coming-of-age, the formidable power of Nunavut’s landscape, the resilience of women … The book is like nothing I’ve ever read before, exhilarating in its carnality, experimentation, vulnerability and wisdom.”
Now Magazine
“Neither fully autobiography nor fiction, Split Tooth is brutal, beautiful literary magic.”
Exclaim Magazine
“Tagaq’s genre-defying work establishes her as a careful, gifted wordsmith” —Publishers Weekly
“Split Tooth is both fractured and direct, horrible and beautiful, so surreal in its reality, so real in its surreality…Tagaq's writing is both weighted down in the troubled, material world while also being free to explore the ageless, phantasmagorical world that exists behind it. There are realities that exist beyond our own, and they are all gathered and explored here.”
—Bookshelf.ca

“In simplest terms, Split Tooth is a punch to the throat…a stellar first novel; an incredible work of Canadian, indigenous, and world literatures.”
PopMatters
Tagaq has broken a new trail for all future Inuit writers to tread upon, describing the lived world of an Inuk child with writing that is breathtaking and singular…With this work Tagaq has reshaped what Inuit literature is… it is impossible to stop reading. It is delicious. And offers a new way forward for Inuit authors.”
Inuit Art Quarterly

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