cover image Sivulliq: Ancestor

Sivulliq: Ancestor

Lily H. Tuzroyluke. Epicenter, $18.95 trade paper (290p) ISBN 978-1-68492-041-9

Indigenous writer Tuzroyluke’s stirring debut evokes the beauty of the Arctic and sheds light on a dark corner of U.S. history. In the spring of 1893, a smallpox epidemic devastates Indigenous communities along the north shore of Alaska. After lighting a funeral pyre for the bodies of her husband and immediate family, Kayaliruk heads north in a dog sled with her three children to find other survivors. Along the way, they suffer a violent encounter with Naluagmiut (white men), who kidnap her only daughter. Badly injured and near starvation, Kayaliruk is determined to save her daughter and follows the men’s American whaling ship with her two sons, first to Herschel Island, an outpost in the Beaufort Sea, then to Siberia. The story of Kayaliruk’s journey alternates with that of Ibai, a Black whaler from Massachusetts, whose fate will eventually merge with Kayaliruk’s. Tuzroyluke explores a chapter of American expansion rarely included in history books, illuminating both the rich cultural diversity predating U.S. colonialism in the Arctic and the sordid legacy of whalers who overhunted and spread diseases. The ice is as omnipresent a character as either protagonist: “unpredictable, feared and a living creature” that can shift, crack, and overwhelm. Tuzroyluke’s beautiful novel crackles with a fierce love of her people and their land. (Jan.)