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It's hard to imagine how singer Susan Aglukark could have moved any farther away from the sources of her artistic imagination.

The Far North, where she grew up, is her inspiration. But home is this wealthy bedroom town of 135,000 west of Toronto, with an average household income of $89,000 and little racial diversity.

But then, she was a child of contradiction. Her father, an Inuk, was a Pentecostal minister. She was not, as she puts it, "drenched" in Inuit tradition.

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At least not consciously. She was steeped in it, and then suddenly in her adult life -- to her great surprise -- she had a career as an artist who evokes the emotional life of her people.

Not an easy thing to do from Oakville. On the other hand, sometimes a little distance can be an advantage to an artist.

"I've got a more positive outlook on life because I'm not in that very small-town environment," the 33-year-old Ms. Aglukark says.

"I can write about that experience and still say: 'You can change, you can see by my experience it's possible, it's not hopeless.' I think if I had stayed there I wouldn't have become an artist. If all I saw was the small town and all the very negative things about it -- why write?"

So why Oakville? It's the hometown of her husband, a recording engineer; right now the couple and their four-year-old son want to be close to the boy's paternal grandfather. They've been here for a year and a half.

And compared to Toronto, where she lived for four years, and even Ottawa, where she lived for four years before that, it's small. And she is not happy on a big stage.

"I love small audiences. I don't ever want to become a big-stage artist. That's not me. I love small audiences because I love telling stories; I love to watch the audience take in the stories. There's something about that connection that I'm very attached to now."

Ms. Aglukark lives in old Oakville, among retirees and second-generation Ford plant employees. It's a place where her high Inuit cheekbones are an uncommon sight. She has experienced no intolerance, here or elsewhere, she says.

She returns at least three times a year to visit her extended family on Rankin Inlet and Baffin Island.

Ms. Aglukark is determined to sing her people's stories. In Never Be the Same, she sang about Inuit victims of tuberculosis. In E186, she sang about identification tags some Inuit were forced to wear in the 1930s. But she also sings more upbeat songs, in her distinctive mix of traditional Inuit chants with pop melodies. O Siem takes its name from an Indian exclamation of joy at seeing friends and family.

"It stays with you," she says of Inuit culture and tradition.

Oakville, she says, is a place where people pull together for the community. Her favourite spot is the Central Library, built in 1967.

In particular, she loves the children's section. When she's not travelling, she takes her son there.

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"It's the one place he and I can both drop everything and just relax, besides home."

He is excited by the bank of five computers with interactive Arthur or Dr. Seuss games.

"He eats it up," she says.

He also likes the library's train set. It's a comfortable kind of library, with stuffed reindeer and wooden playhouses with kitchenettes -- not a place where the children have to be afraid to giggle or chatter.

"It's not the kind of place you'd expect," Ms. Aglukark says. "You don't have to be reserved. It's a real kid's place." First of a series that asks well-known figures in the Toronto area what is special -- for them -- about their community.

The series

Today: Singer Susan Aglukark Tomorrow: Bill Lishman of Fly Away Home fame Thursday: Mystery writer John Brady Friday: Police Chief Julian Fantino Saturday: Poet Lynn Crosbie Monday: Globe and Mail columnist John Barber

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