Miyax is feeling – understandably – abandoned. But she's used to it. Flashback alert!
Poor Miyax can't remember her mother, because she was just four years old when she died.
But she does remember walking along the icy beach with her awesome father, Kapugen, soon afterward. It's not a sad memory, because she is totally happy to be alone with her father, even if he's super sad.
In the flashback, they walk all the way to a place called the seal camp, and Miyax absolutely loves it there.
Kapugen has a house made of driftwood near the beach. It's decorated with hunting-related things, and old men come over every night to chat near the fire. Sounds cozy.
You know what sounds even cozier? When Kapugen would hunt in his kayak, Miyax would ride on his back, all snuggled up in his parka.
She also remembers something called the Bladder Feast, which is a colorful time. At the feast, a shaman, called "the bent woman," dances. Then someone comes out wearing a mask, which scares Miyax. But when she sees that it's her dad's friend Naka, she's not afraid anymore.
Oh, and it turns out that bladders hold the spirits of the animals: the bent woman tells Miyax this during the Bladder Feast.
As a part of another memory, Miyax recalls a time when Naka and Kapugen recreated wolf rituals and sang wolf songs in front of the fire in their house.
Again in a flashback, Kapugen tells her about the wolves he had known when he was younger. He tells her that wolves are loving and brotherly, and if you speak their language, they will be kind to you.
In fact, all birds and animals have their own languages that you can learn. Good tip, Kapugen. That's gonna come in handy for sure.
One more string of memories: it's the day the sun first comes over the horizon, signaling the end of winter.
She and Kapugen are whale hunting. In fact, as a child, Miyax goes on a lot of different trips with Kapugen, which are always a ton of fun. They laugh, fish, gather, and hunt.
In the summers, Kapugen would be busy helping other families hunt and fish, so Miyax has to play with the other children on the beach. Sometimes she digs for clams.
A lot of people in the seal camp in the summer speak English. They call Kapugen Charlie Edwards and Miyax Julie.
It turns out that Eskimos often have two names. One in English and one in Eskimo. Her mother called her Julie, too. Wonder why.
But when Kapugen calls her Julie, Miyax gets mad at him. She's an Eskimo, and don't you dare forget it.
In the winter at the seal camp, there are blizzards and cold temperatures. Everyone left at the seal camp speaks only Eskimo and follows Eskimo traditions. They are true Eskimos, like Kapugen and Miyax.
One year, in September, Kapugen comes home with a beautiful seal skin, out of which he wanted to make Miyax a parka. But just as he gets to work, a woman named Martha, who turns out to be Kapugen's aunt, comes into the house and tells Kapugen something that makes him very mad. We do not like this Martha lady.
The next day, Kapugen wakes up Miyax and tells her that she has to go to school and that he has to go off to war. Miyax is supposed to go live with Martha, in a place called Mekoryuk.
Kapugen tells Miyax that if she's unhappy at Martha's she can go live with Naka, and marry his son, Daniel, when she turns thirteen.
So Miyax, who's game for any of her dad's suggestions, packs her things, gets on the boat with Martha, and leaves Kapugen behind.
And so Miyax becomes Julie. She starts school, and enjoys learning English.
One day, Martha wakes Julie to tell her that her father has disappeared in his kayak. Julie is devastated, but she tries to keep on going. She's super strong, our Julie.
She doesn't fit in at school, though, and other kids laugh at her old-fashioned ways. Julie needs to get herself some new friends.
One day, as she walks home from school, a man in a truck stops her and tells her his daughter is looking for a pen pal. Julie agrees to write her, so the man, Mr. Pollock, hands her a letter from the girl, whose name is Amy. Sweet. A new friend. Amy's letter is all about San Francisco, and makes Julie very happy.
From Amy's letters, Julie learns all about modern things like television and high school. She wants to go to school to learn more, but Martha can't afford it.
She thinks that if she agrees to marry Daniel, Naka might be able to send her to school.
As time passes, Martha becomes stricter and stricter. Julie starts to hate her life in Mekoryuk. And honestly, what's not to hate? It's cold, and the people are mean. Enough said.
One day, the head of the Indian Affairs in Mekoryuk comes to tell Martha and Julie that Naka has written. He wants Julie to marry Daniel, according to his and Kapugen's earlier arrangement.
Even though Martha tells her she doesn't have to, Julie agrees to go, and so she flies to faraway Barrow. Well, our little Julie is certainly adventurous.
Julie lands and is greeted by Naka, his wife Nusan, and their son Daniel. But something's off. Nusan tells Julie that Daniel "has a few problems," (2.76) but that he will be like a brother to Julie. Well, that seems all right. We can work with that.
But then, the very next day, Julie and Daniel are married in a short, no-nonsense ceremony. Julie wonders if Kapugen had known that Daniel was "dull" (2.78) when he agreed to the arranged marriage.
After the wedding, Julie wanders outside and meets a girl named Pearl, who takes her to the community house, where they share a Coke.
Pearl tells Julie that she got married last year, and she knows how Julie feels. She also tells her that if she wants to, Julie can totally run away. No one will make her stay in the marriage if she doesn't want to.
When Julie returns home, Nusan begins to teach her how to sew. Married life doesn't seem too terrible at first, because Daniel's never around.
So Julie cooks, sews, studies, and hangs out with Pearl to pass the time. This'll do.
Months pass, and Julie cherishes her letters from Amy. She can't wait to visit her in San Francisco. But she's getting used to Barrow.
During the winter, Julie discovers that Naka is an alcoholic who hits his wife. This situation is looking less and less appealing, but Julie sticks with it.
On January 24th, everyone in school goes outside to watch the first sunrise. It's a glorious moment, and everyone reaches his or her arms toward the sky. We can't imagine what it would be like to not have the sun for two months, but we're betting that first sunrise has got to feel good.
(Yep, just like there are times during the year when the sun never sets, there are also times when the sun never rises. Yikes.)
Before long, summer has arrived, and Julie and Nusan are busy sewing parkas for all the tourists, who never come prepared.
One day, while Julie's hard at work, Daniel storms in and shouts at her. This does not look good. He says the other kids laugh at him, saying, "He's got a wife and he can't mate her" (2.119).
Daniel attacks Julie, and she's terrified. He rips her dress and kisses her, but then suddenly, he runs away.
Julie rolls over and throws up. Understandable, after that trauma. Right then and there, she decides to run away.
She gathers her things and heads to Pearl's house, where Pearl gives her some food and supplies. Julie tells Pearl that she'll be a-okay out in the wilderness alone because her father was a great hunter and he taught her a lot. We're a little less optimistic, knowing what we know, but you can't blame the girl for trying.
Taking off for San Francisco, she tells herself, "Julie is gone […] I am Miyax now" (2.141).