'Indigenous youth don't get to see themselves as the hero': Author Aviaq Johnston has plans to change that

Aviaq Johnston freely admits the first book she ever wrote as a teen was terrible. But the author from Igloolik, Nunavut has moved on from a "Harry Potter rip-off" to a debut novel shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.
Author Aviaq Johnston didn't see herself reflected in the books she read. (Aviaq Johnston/Instagram)
Listen7:41

Aviaq Johnston freely admits the first book she ever wrote as a teen was terrible. But the author from Igloolik, Nunavut has moved on from a "Harry Potter rip-off" to a debut novel shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.

Those Who Run in the Sky is Aviaq Johnston's first novel. (Inhabit Media)
Those Who Run in the Sky is a coming-of-age story that follows a young shaman. The main character, Pitu, ends up trapped in the spirit world and must harness his powers to find his way back home to his people.

Johnston was very particular that her novel be character-driven and that Pitu was the hero. That's because growing up, it was almost impossible to find young adult stories where the hero was someone she identified with. Johnston said the only stories with Inuit characters were oral history stories from elders or in children's picture books.

"I think a lot of Indigenous youth don't get to see themselves a lot as the hero or a character worth telling stories about. So I really felt they deserved to have that feeling of like an Inuk Harry Potter," she said.

Johnston said there are more Inuit hero stories coming. She's working on a second book about Pitu that should be released in 2019.