Author Interview: Nasugraq Rainey Hopson is Drawn to Stories Celebrating Unity

By AJ Eversole

I’m thrilled to have Nasugraq Rainey Hopson (Inupiaq) today on Cynsations! Hopson has contributed to three short story anthologies, Rural Voices  (Candlewick, 2022), Tasting Light (Miteen Press, 2022) and the forthcoming Boundless (Inkyard Press, 2023). Also an accomplished illustrator, Nasugraq also designed the logo for HarperCollins Heartdrum imprint. Her debut novel, Eagle Drums (Roaring Brook Press, 2023) released in September.

What is the heart of Eagle Drums?

The heart of Eagle Drums is a single message: that we are stronger and happier working together. Cooperation can create such beautiful and magical things, especially when we celebrate all the facets and intricacies of our humanity. It simply goes against nature to separate ourselves from each other, and in fact, this separation causes undo harm.

What do you want teens to take away from this book?

I wish teens to know that the world is vast and infinite in the stories that can be told and experienced. For Inupiaq and other arctic indigenous teens, I want them to see the beauty and complexity in their history viewed through the lens of Unipkaat, the mythological stories. For non-indigenous teens I hope this story opens up their mind to the vast possibilities of stories that are out there, ready for them to experience. I hope both groups can just enjoy a point of view that really doesn’t exist much in today’s current world.

What was your favorite part to write?

My absolute favorite part of this book to write was any time Piŋa was experiencing the wild arctic, whether it just be hiking behind Savik, or exploring his world looking for people to attend the first feast. The land where I grew up and where I live in rural Alaska is so very special in so many ways. As a kid, I would walk in the tundra and imagine mythological beings and talking animals everywhere, simply because to me the real world here is so unique and inspires such magical thinking in its beauty.

What themes will we find in Eagle Drums?

The themes included in this book mirror some of our traditional Inupiaq values. The first is cooperation, and resolution of any differences. And that this way of living doesn’t always look like passively agreeing with each other constantly. It can be bumpy and unresolved, and that is fine. Another is about growth and personal identity and how growing up is about building a solid foundation that is connected to love and understanding. It can be parents and family that builds you up, but it can also be the relationships you build along the way and the friendships that allow you the most growth.

What are you working on next?

I am currently working a few things; A similar book to Eagle Drums is on the way, filled with just as many magical creatures and adventures as the first book. And I am also working on illustrating a children’s book written by a close family friend that also explores the same themes. I am so lucky to be able to work on these projects and I can’t wait for everyone to enjoy them!


Cynsational Notes

See more on Nasuġraq’s path to publication in her previous Cynsations interview, Nasugraq Rainey Hopson on Overcoming Doubt.

Born and raised in the rural expanse of the North Slope of Alaska, Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson grew up on fantastic tales from her unique and rich Indigenous Iñupiaq culture. When she is not writing or creating art inspired by these stories, she is studying how to grow food in the arctic and is working at preserving traditional Iñupiaq knowledge. She has a degree in Studio Art and has taught all levels of Art from kindergarten to college level. She lives in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska; with her husband and daughter, three dogs, and a small flock of arctic chickens where she lives off the land and the amazing bounty it provides like her ancestors did for thousands of years. She is the author of Eagle Drums.

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. AJ currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas; with her family. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole.