Books·Canadian

Split Tooth

Tanya Tagaq's first book.

Tanya Tagaq

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. (From Viking)

Split Tooth was on the longlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It is currently a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Why Tanya Tagaq wrote Split Tooth

"I didn't have an intention of ever putting this writing out. Most of it has been written over the last 20 years. It was just sitting around in logs, diaries and notes on my phone. It was unintentional, almost in the same way the first few performances I did with throat singing — I never ever thought that it was going to become a career.

I was able to fly and let the character do what I wish I did.- Tanya Tagaq

"You know when you're in a dream and you realize you can fly, so you do it? This character is like all the insecurities or the experiences I had that made me feel small and embarrassed. I was able to fly and let the character do what I wish I did.

"Being able to make something up is very fun, because it's almost like it's happening the way you wished it happened. There were a few times in the book where I was surprised by the word's power to take me, instead of me taking it. That's how I feel when I'm playing a concert. The sound is carrying me; I'm not carrying the sound."

Read more in Tanya Tagaq's interview with The Next Chapter.

From the book

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 was 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 becme 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.


From Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq ©2018. Published by Viking Canada.

Interviews with Tanya Talaga

Tanya Tagaq talks to Shealgh Rogers about her debut novel, Split Tooth. 16:58
Over the past year we have had many musicians, singers and performers share their gifts and the stories behind their songs. We revisit some of our favourites: Tanya Tagaq, Tomson Highway, Murray Porter, Amanda Rheaume, Dustin Harder and Kimberley Dawn 54:00
Tanya Tagaq has spent her career "hiding" behind her music, but with her new project, Split Tooth, which mixes fiction and memoir, she's more exposed than ever. 19:01
Whether it's through comic books, music, or literature, Indigenous artists are finding their voice. This week on Unreserved, how Indigenous artists are reinforcing the presence of their own stories and characters in creative fields where they have often been left out. 42:38

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