Native Voice: Nasugraq Rainey Hopson on Overcoming Doubt

By: AJ Eversole

Today we welcome Nasugraq Rainey Hopson to the blog. I was lucky enough to meet her at the We Need Diverse Books Native Writing Intensive back in 2020, and it brings me so much joy to see her career moving forward. She is the author of two short stories, “The Cabin” in the award-winning collection Rural Stories: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America, edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter (Candlewick, 2020) and the forthcoming, “The Weight Of A Name” in Tasting Light: Ten Stories To Rewire Your Perceptions, edited by A.R. Capetta and Wade Roush (Miteen, 2022).

What do you love most about the creative life/being an author? Why?

It is definitely the feedback I get from the young people that read my stories and see my art. The non-Indigenous feedback is always full of wonder and curiosity, and their questions are focused on growing their own understanding of what a human/Nature connection can look like and feel like in our modern world. The Indigenous children on the other hand ask fewer questions, but instead they tell me about their own stories or their family’s stories, they use my writing as a springboard to rejoice in their own world, and the joy of that is quite beautiful. Along with every reaction in between these two responses, it all brings such joy to me.

Could you tell us about your new release?

Tasting Light is a collection of amazing science fiction stories aimed at presenting science from various thought-provoking angles. My short story entitled “The Weight of a Name” is about a young Inupiaq woman who is moving into adulthood as an Indigenous person 300 years into the future. It explores what culture can look like weaved together with scientific progress, and the strained relationship we Indigenous have with others. She receives a gift of her mother’s handwritten journals which are needed to successfully colonize a distant planet, and this creates opportunity both for her and her People.

Reflecting on your personal journey (creatively, career-wise, and your writer’s heart), what bumps did you encounter and how have you managed to defy the odds to achieve continued success? 

This is a question in which the answer changes as I move along this particular path as writer and illustrator. The greatest barrier for me was purely a mental barrier. I grew up in a time where there were no Indigenous written books for young people, no shows, nothing that I could relate to. This created a perception that these stories and art were not valued. And even though we Indigenous people are fighting tooth and nail to pour our cultural beauty into the world, the way I grew up has created a dark little voice in my head that spews doubts about the things I create are ever valuable in any way. I am aware of the origins of this voice and in that awareness I can, with work and practice, quiet it into submission. I keep a sketchbook filled with inspirational quotes and images and stories. And as someone who I admire greatly once said to me, ‘It was put there with purpose, don’t let it do its job.’ It takes almost daily practice, but gets easier to quiet with every step, with every connection I make with other indigenous authors, and with every piece I create.

An Example of Hopson’s Illustrations.

What are you working on next?

I am currently finishing the artwork for my debut novel Eagle Drums (Roaring Book Press, 2023), a story based on the mythology of how the Inupiaq gained knowledge of song and dance. It will be available in the Fall of 2023 and I can’t wait for people to read it!

Did the editing process for your debut book offer any insights that you’ll be using in your writing process going forward?

The biggest realization I have come to is that it is incredibly important to be deliberate in who you work with, and to let them know from the beginning what your goals are in your writing and artwork. For me, it was making it clear that I refuse to create anything that would make Inupiaq youth embarrassed of where they came from and how they grew up. Inupiaq children from the past, present, and future. I want my stories and artwork to explore the beauty and complexity and depth of our culture and world. Everything is centered around those goals.

Cynsational Notes

Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson is the author of the short story “The Cabin” in the award-winning collection Rural Stories: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America (Candlewick, 2020). The short story “The Weight Of A Name” in Tasting Light: Ten Stories To Rewire Your Perceptions. (Miteen, 2022). Her debut novel Eagle Drums (Roaring Book Press, 2023) will be available in the fall of 2023. She is a tribally enrolled Inupiaq, an Illustrator and arctic gardener. She currently lives in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska with her husband, two daughters, a small pack of dogs and some chickens where she continues to explore the world and stories of being a modern Indigenous person.

AJ Eversole covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, a place removed from city life and full of opportunities to nurture the imagination. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and writes primarily young adult fiction. She currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole or Twitter @amjoyeversole.