Reading List: Stories from Colder Climates
Yesterday in Lincoln, Nebraska (home of the University of Nebraska Press) it was so cold that all area schools were cancelled. Being as dedicated to books as we are, UNP employees braved the frigid tundra to continue our quest to create great reading material. In the spirit of negative temperatures, here is a list of Alaskan and Antarctic books. Grab an electric blanket and curl up with one of these titles.
Antarctica, the last place on Earth, is not famous for its cuisine. Yet it is famous for stories of heroic expeditions in which hunger was the one spice everyone carried. At the dawn of Antarctic cuisine, cooks improvised under inconceivable hardships, castaways ate seal blubber and penguin breasts while fantasizing about illustrious feasts, and men seeking the South Pole stretched their rations to the breaking point. Today, Antarctica’s kitchens still wait for provisions at the far end of the planet’s longest supply chain. Scientific research stations serve up cafeteria fare that often offers more sustenance than style. Jason C. Anthony, a veteran of eight seasons in the U.S. Antarctic Program, offers a rare workaday look at the importance of food in Antarctic history and culture. The stories in Hoosh are linked by the ingenuity, good humor, and indifference to gruel that make Anthony’s tale as entertaining as it is enlightening.
A lifelong Alaskan, Steve Kahn moved at the age of nine from the “metropolis” of Anchorage to the foothills of the Chugach Mountains. A childhood of berry picking, fishing, and hunting led to a life as a big-game guide. When he wasn’t guiding in the spring and fall, he worked as a commercial fisherman and earned his pilot’s license, pursuits that took him to the far reaches of the Alaskan wilderness. He lived through some of the most important moments of the state’s history: the 1964 earthquake (the most powerful in U.S. history), the Farewell Burn wildfire, the last king crab season in Kodiak Island waters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and cleanup, even the far-reaching effects of the 9/11 attacks. These essays offer a view of Alaska that is at once introspective and adventurous. Ever the irrepressible guide, Kahn invites readers to share his experiences and discoveries and to consider questions about a place, and a life, that are disappearing.
When Leslie Carol Roberts went to Antarctica for the first time with Greenpeace, she was hoping to save the world. In the twenty years since then she has shifted to the no less difficult task of saving Antarctica itself, compiling memoirs and stories, learning the biology and geography of the icy land, and documenting her own journey. This book pieces together the tragic and heroic tales of nineteenth-century exploration, interviews with scientists, and the author’s personal observations. The result is a remarkable collage that evokes the beauty and the complexity, the perils and the rewards of a lifelong engagement with the earth’s last wilderness. A kaleidoscope of legends, stories, field notes, images, reports, history, letters, and research, the book renders an impression, at once vast and microscopic, of the effect of human beings on the land and ice we call Antarctica, and its effect on us.
For Nancy Lord, what began as a yearning for adventure and a childhood fascination with a wild and distant land culminated in a move to Alaska in the early 1970s. Here she discovered the last place in America “big and wild enough to hold the intact landscapes and the dreams that are so absent today from almost everywhere else.” In Rock, Water, Wild, Lord takes readers along as she journeys among salmon, sea lions, geese, moose, bears, glaciers, and indigenous languages and ultimately into a new understanding, beyond geographic borders, of our intricate and intimate connections to the natural world. Vast and beautiful, and much more than a mere place, Alaska is nonetheless inescapably a land of natural extremes and exquisite subtleties. In the tradition of naturalists John Muir and John Burroughs, Lord proves an excellent guide to the challenges and pleasures of making oneself at home on this Earth.
How does one recover from disaster? That question is at the heart of Marybeth Holleman’s lyrical, elegiac response to the repercussions of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which devastated Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. Intertwining the destruction of an ecosystem, the disintegration of her marriage, and her emerging identity as a new mother, Holleman explores the resiliency of nature—both wild and human—and the ways in which that resiliency is tested.
While much of nature writing is about the search for an unspoiled landscape, The Heart of the Sound is about what happens when such a place is irrevocably damaged. In language rich with passion and hard-won insight and imbued with descriptions that give voice to the place, Holleman creates a captivating story of a woman who found her Eden in the sweeping fjords of Alaska’s Prince William Sound only to almost lose it to ecological tragedy. Speaking as a witness and survivor, she discovers what it means to love what remains.
COMING IN MARCH
Sharing Our Knowledge brings together Native elders, tradition bearers, educators, cultural activists, anthropologists, linguists, historians, and museum professionals to explore the culture, history, and language of the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska and their coastal neighbors. These interdisciplinary, collaborative essays present Tlingit culture not as an object of study but rather as a living heritage that continues to inspire and guide the lives of communities and individuals throughout southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia. This volume focuses on the preservation and dissemination of Tlingit language, traditional cultural knowledge, and history from an activist Tlingit perspective.
This is Bunten’s firsthand account of what it is like to work in the Alaska cultural tourism industry. An Alaska Native and anthropologist, she spent two seasons working for a tribally owned tourism business that markets the Tlingit culture in Sitka. Bunten’s narrative takes readers through the summer tour season as she is hired and trained and eventually becomes a guide.
A multibillion-dollar worldwide industry, cultural tourism provides one of the most ubiquitous face-to-face interactions between peoples of different cultures and is arguably one of the primary means by which knowledge about other cultures is disseminated. Bunten goes beyond debates about who owns Native culture and has the right to “sell” it to tourists. Bunten’s bottom-up approach provides a fascinating and informative look at the cultural tourism industry in Alaska.