This is just a smattering of the books on my Alaska shelf. Okay, I have a few Alaska shelves. And here's a confession, I never have and still do not consider myself an Alaska writer, as in, 'I write about Alaska.' I wrote a story about FAMILY that was set in Alaska because that's where I'm from and it's all I know. It's just one story. My story about growing up here and the people I grew up with. There is no such thing as a definitive Alaska story. Everybody I meet has their own.
These are the books I turn to when I'm far from home and need to see a friendly face. (The one that has just a black spiral binding is a Gwich'in-English dictionary written by Ginny and Clarence Alexander from Ft. Yukon). No, I don't speak Gwich'in. Which is why I need the dictionary.
Here are some of my favorite Alaska writers and books, in no particular order and not necessarily featured in the photo.
Ordinary Wolves, by Seth Kantner--Okay, I lied. This is my favorite Alaska book. It was the first book I read that felt like someone was finally honest about what it was really like growing up in a state that is so culturally mixed, the stereotypes are all over the place on both sides of the aisle. Maybe only those of us from a certain time and place will ever really understand this life in the way it needs to be understood, but I got into fist fights with strangers in bars over this book. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.
(edit on Sept 25, 2016...) I lied again. My new favorite Alaska book is To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey. Although everything I said about Ordinary Wolves still stands, hopefully there's always a new kid that moves in and sheds yet another bit of light on the Alaska experience. Bright Edge is that new kid. (released Aug. 2) It lives up to all the hype and more. This book is BIG and still, I carried it across Europe afraid to finish it because I didn't want it to end. It was basically like carrying a big chunk of Alaska in my luggage (and just as heavy). I had to gift it to my agent after I was done because she's in London and that made more sense than toting it home. But I will buy another copy to keep forever. One sentence sums up this book for me: "Never are the people here allowed to forget that each of us is alive by only a small thread." -Eowyn Ivey
Shadows on the Koyukuk, by Sidney Huntington as told to Jim Rearden--I have two copies of this on the shelf. I think that says enough. Like it says on the book jacket, his story, simply told, is a testament to the durability of Alaska's wild lands and to the strength of the people who inhabit them. I interviewed him in the last years of his life for Alaska Public Radio. An honor and a gift.
Raising Ourselves and Bird Girl, by Velma Wallis--An Athabascan writer from Ft. Yukon who does not mince her words. I love Velma Wallis. And anyone who has wondered about the history between the Athabascan and Inupiat people will find much to learn from her writing. Even Willie Hensley, a prominent Inupiaq leader said he was distressed to see his people portrayed as villains in Bird Girl. (History makes no bones about the warfare between Inupiat and Athabascan people) But he wrote the forward and is testimony to the ways that Alaska's indigenous populations have lived and evolved over time. I love that I come from a place with so much history and such a strong will to survive.
The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey--Fiction and magical realism at its most prolific. This is a third generation Alaskan writer that I loved on the page before I met her and discovered she was even more wonderful in person. Alaskans are the best people in the world. Eowyn was raised by a poet and anyone who reads her writing will realize this immediately. Her new novel, To the Bright Edge of the World will be released on August 2nd. (see description above)
The Rising and the Rain, poems by John Straley--The 12th Alaska writer laureate in 2006, John Straley is also a public defender, writer of mystery novels, public radio advocate and friend of homeschooled children with too much time on their hands. All of that aside, his poems are like falling asleep to the sound of the rain on a tin roof. One of my favorite writers and people in the 49th state. Period.
To be continued...but feel free to email me any that you love. hitchcock at Alaska.net