Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson is an author and illustrator. She has written short stories and made art inspired by her Iñupiaq culture. The Iñupiaq people are native to Alaska. Hopson’s debut novel, Eagle Drums, is based on Iñupiaq folklore about a great feast. The great feast is still celebrated today.
In the book, Piŋa struggles with the grief of losing his brothers, who have traveled to a nearby mountain and never returned. Piŋa goes to the mountain, where he’s confronted by the eagle god, Savik. Savik gives Piŋa a choice: follow him, or meet the same fate as his brothers. Piŋa’s decision takes him on a journey that exposes him to the dances and songs that are part of Iñupiaq culture.STEPHEN BLUE FOR TIME FOR KIDS; COURTESY NASUĠRAQ RAINEY HOPSON
Eagle Drums describes aspects of Iñupiaq life such as hunting caribou and eating its whipped fat, Piŋa’s favorite food. “It’s often called ice cream, like Eskimo ice cream,” Hopson says. “It was definitely my favorite, growing up.”
Hopson wants to write more Iñupiaq stories. “We have a lot of oral history and oral stories in our culture,” she says. Hopson explains that Iñupiaq people use their voices, facial expressions, and movements to convey emotions as they tell a story. “But you can’t do that when you’re writing,” she says. “It’s very uncomfortable, in a way, to have to write down something that is a performance.” But she’s up for the challenge.
Eagle Drums is for anyone who’s looking for a vivid adventure narrative. Hopson says that when Iñupiaq kids read her work, they get “excited about seeing something from their own area and their own culture.” Other kids who read her work tell Hopson they’re “excited about experiencing a story they’ve never experienced before,” in a new place. “You know, that’s the best part, is hearing feedback,” she says.