An Inupiaq Story
Debut Novel by Lily H. Tuzroyluke, Indigenous Writer
In the spring of 1893, arctic Alaska is devastated by smallpox. Kayaliruk knows it is time to light the funeral pyres and leave their home. With her surviving children, she packs their dog sled and they set off to find family.
Kayaliruk wakes with a bleeding scalp and no memory of the last day. Her daughter was stolen by Yankee whalers, her sons say. They begin chasing the ship, through arctic storms, across immeasurable distances, slipping into the Yankee whalers' town on Herschel Island, and to the enemy shores of Siberia.
Ibai, an African American whaler, grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts among the long-standing whaling industry. This is his first whaling expedition. He learned the names of the whaling ships, counted their barrels, whalebone, and baleen, memorized stories of seafaring heroes overcoming great odds, while his father crafted harpoons for captains. In anguish, he learns whaling ships will obtain oil at any cost. The lives of Kayaliruk and Ibai become intertwined on this journey, both witnessing colonial horrors upon their Peoples.
Read the Reviews
David James, Anchorage Daily News
"Aided first by an enigmatic woman named Nasauyaaq who is immensely skilled on the land, and then by her uncle Ataŋauraq, who is similarly adept at sea travel, Tuzroyluke uses a sometimes heart-pounding pursuit to show how the Inupiaq created technologies and developed understanding of their land that were quite complex, and how this knowledge was transmitted through generations. And she does this largely without distracting from the plot line. Using their distinctive voices, she also develops Kayaliruk and Ibai into individual, multilayered characters."
-David James, Anchorage Daily News
Shehla Anjum, Alaska Native Quarterly
"Tuzroyluke deftly mixes action with lyrical scenes of the landscape... She shows the beauty of her land with words that make it come alive."
-Shehla Anjum, Alaska Native Quarterly
Don Rearden, Alaskan Author
"This is my favorite book of the year! Lily Tuzroyluke's debut novel Sivulliq is an instant Alaska classic. Gripping and raw, honest, and gut wrenchingly beautiful, this profound and heartbreaking story of resilience and love is as important as any modern tale ever told in the north. Sivulliq is unforgettable and haunting-a bold new work from a gifted writer sharing her talent and vital indigenous knowledge that can help us all become better human beings."
-Don Rearden, author of The Raven's Gift
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.
Lily Tuzroyluke is an indigenous writer from Alaska and Canada. She is a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and previously served in Tribal Government. Lily now resides in Anchorage, Alaska.