Author Spotlight: Kevin & Mary Qamaniq-Mason
Another edition of Inhabit Education Books Author Spotlight is here! We are thrilled to be able to highlight the many talented Indigenous authors and contributors in our catalogue. In these profiles, you’ll learn about each author’s writing process, the inspiration behind their work, and more.
Our second Author Spotlight features an interview with Kevin and Mary Qamaniq-Mason, the authors of new release Lena and Ruby: A Story of Two Adoptions.
Kevin Qamaniq-Mason grew up in Iglulik and is now a senior policy advisor at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Mary Qamaniq-Mason holds a PhD in Education with a special interest in wellbeing and connection. Mary and Kevin have a son and a daughter by custom adoption and are foster parents to more. They live together in Ottawa.
Learn more about Mary and Kevin in our Q&A below!
What inspired you to write Lena and Ruby: A Story of Two Adoptions?
Mary: Our son had a beautiful custom adoption. He doesn’t feel a stigma about being adopted at all. He is proud to be adopted and he’s proud to have such a big family. He loves all his parents and grandparents from every side of the family. As a non-Inuk adoptive mom, I feel that Inuit have a lot of wisdom about adopting children in a good way that could help adoptive children and parents all over the world.
Kevin: We see a lot of children in the Inuit community get adopted out to non-Inuit families and struggle with their identities. We wanted to show that in transracial adoptive families it’s important for the child to maintain connections with community members who can guide them. They need to understand and connect with the culture they come from to be able to understand themselves.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Mary: Sometimes we talk through story ideas when we’re driving the kids around. I also love to work in my bedroom. Sometimes, a big idea comes to me all at once and I sit on my bed all afternoon writing in a flurry. By the time Kevin gets home from the office I have a new story idea ready to go and I bombard him with it! He thinks about it for a while and then develops the culture pieces.
What do you hope to teach readers by sharing this story?
Mary: Many of the ideas in Lena and Ruby came from my father. He had a very painful and traumatic childhood. Even though he struggled a lot in his life he passed on goodness and knowledge. I hope our young readers can learn that no matter how painful a situation is, we can grow, we can gain wisdom, and we can help others.
What were the challenges of writing this book?
Kevin: Talking directly about race and identity is always challenging. I am always afraid to say something that will close down a conversation instead of opening it. I hope that this book will help families to open conversations about adoption and race that might have felt awkward or scary before.
Explain why you think representation is important in children's educational resources and literacy in general.
Kevin: When we were young, books about Inuit were written in Inuktitut and focused on Inuit-only communities living very traditional lifestyles, or they were Inuit legends with a lot of horror elements. Some mainstream English books occasionally portrayed Inuit characters, but they made Inuit seem very mysterious; they were survival experts but they felt very impersonal. There weren’t really stories about Inuit today living in multicultural or urban settings. But that’s who I am, and that’s who my kids are, and we need to be able to see ourselves in literature.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Kevin: There is an Inuktitut picture book called Ataataga that I loved. I liked the classic English picture books too, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and I liked to read the Children’s Illustrated Bible we had at home. My brother used to tease me because I would wake up in the morning and stay in bed to read. All my siblings would be out in the living room watching TV, and eventually I would wander out with my nose in a book.
Mary: Anything I could get my hands on! The Borrowers series and Tom’s Midnight Garden stand out, but I have too many favourites to name. I still own many of them today. They are among my most cherished possessions! We even named our daughter Lucy after the character in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. My favourite thing was that my mom used to read to me every night before bed.
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