Edwardson, Debby Dahl. 2009. BLESSING’S BEAD. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780374308056 [Suggested Grade Levels 6- 8]
The Trade Fair is when people gather from the islands in the Arctic Circle to trade and renew familial ties. For Nutaaq and her sister, Aaluk, the fair sets into motion events that will separate family, introduce disease, and necessitate forced marriages. Yet throughout these events, Nutaaq treasures one blue bead given her by her sister when leaving for the Russian shore. This self-same bead reappears seventy years later as Blessing begins life anew above the Arctic Circle in her Grandmother’s village. Removed from her mother in Anchorage, Blessing must rediscover her Iñupiaq culture and in doing so, heal the physical and emotional rift in her family.
This lyrical novel accurately depicts the culture of a people in a carefully described world of snow and ice. With a unique setting, Edwardson has spun a realistic story of two girls separated by time, yet connected through culture. The character of Blessing is an interesting example for today’s questioning youth, reflecting the inner turmoil of living within a culturally prescribed life.
Readers can explore the regions and cultures north of the Arctic Circle, paying particular attention to the advent of the Cold War and how it directly affected these people. Gather materials and Web sites that illustrate life style, climate, and culture of the Iñupiaq people. Readers may question: What changes might the Iñupiaq be experiencing in their way of life? Is their culture strong enough to meld with today’s technology?
For further reading about the Arctic people and cultures:
Hesse, Karen. ALUETIAN SPARROW. ISBN 9781439556962
Hudson, Rav. MOMENTS RIGHTLY PLACED: AN ALEUTIAN MEMIOR. ISBN 9780979047077
Smelcer, John. THE GREAT DEATH. ISBN 9780805081008
By Christine J. Rayl