Alaska on the page

Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Purely Alaska: Authentic Voices of the Far North," by John Creed and Susan Andrews

In the immense, roadless expanse of the Far North, storytelling has thrivedfor many generations. Stories range from harrowing survival adventures to tales of other exotic people, places and cultures. This anthology captures some of these stories as told by rural Alaskans.

This volume is a sequel to "Authentic Alaska," and the majority of writers whose work appears here have lived in rural Alaska for many years. This anthology offers glimpses of regular people meeting life's everyday challenges while experiencing the same struggles, joys and idiosyncrasies that humans face everywhere: adolescents coming of age, struggles with addiction, regional idiom and cross-cultural challenges.

"Purely Alaska portrays the stunning physical world of Alaska and its spectacular challenges. These stories open the hearts and memories to reveal the pain and strength, the joy, endurance and faith of those who survive and thrive within Alaska's often unforgiving wintery power." - William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, author of "Fifty Miles from Tomorrow."

"Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska," by Aron Crowell, Rosita Worl and Paul Ongtooguk

"Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska" features more than 200 objects representing the masterful artistry and design traditions of twenty Alaska Native peoples. Based on a collaborative exhibition created by Alaska Native communities, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, this richly illustrated volume celebrates both the long-awaited return of ancestral treasures to their native homeland and the diverse cultures in which they were created.

Despite the North's transformation through globalizing change, the objects shown in these pages are interpretable within ongoing cultural frames, articulated in languges still spoken. They were made for a way of life on the land that is carried on today throughout Alaska. Dialogue with the region's First Peoples evokes past meanings but focuses equally on contemporary values, practices and identities.

Objects and narratives show how each Alaska Native nation is unique and how all are connected. After introductions to the history of the land and its people, universal themes of "Sea, Land, Rivers," "Family and Community" and "Ceremony and Celebration" are explored referencing exquisite masks, parkas, beaded garments, basketry, weapons and carvings that embody the diverse environments and practices of their makers. Accompanied by traditional stories and personal accounts by Alaska Native elders, artists and scholars, each piece featured in "Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage" evokes both historical and contemporary meaning, and breathes the life of its people.

"Red: A Haida Manga," by Michael Yahlgulaanas

Referencing a classic Haida oral narrative, this spectacular full-color graphic novel blends traditional Haida imagery with Japanese manga to tell the powerful story of Red, an orphaned leader so blinded by revenge that he leads his community to the brink of war and destruction. When raiders attack his village, young Red escapes dramatically. But his sister Jaada is whisked away. The loss of Jaada breeds a seething anger, and Red sets out to find his sister and exact revenge on her captors. Tragic and timeless, Red's story is reminiscent of such classic tales as "Oedipus Rex," "Macbeth" and "King Lear." Not only an affecting story, "Red" is an innovation in contemporary storytelling from the creator of Haida Manga and the author of "Flight of the Hummingbird." It consists of 108 pages of hand-painted illustrations, and when arranged the panels create a Haida formline image 13 feet long. A miniature version of the panel in full-color is on the inside jacket.

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