Looking at Alaska: Six Stories About The Last Frontier State

Photo: Carl A

When I checked my weather app yesterday, it “felt like” 114 degrees. Anchorage, Alaska, however, was 64 degrees. Our current heat wave is the only thing I can think about. I am on the verge of collaging pictures of glaciers. I carried a manuscript three blocks, and it started to fuse with my sweaty arm. I guess I have to take it on faith that cold places still exist, even if I am slowly melting. That’s where this reading list comes in: six stories about all the nuances of Alaska. Alex Tizon investigates a bizarre missing persons case. Eva Holland goes snowshoe-to-shoe with some of Alaska’s boldest babes. And newly minted memoirist Blair Braverman talks about her writing process and her team of sled dogs. Stay cool out there, readers.

1.  “The Mystery of Why People Go Missing in Alaska.” (Alex Tizon, The Atlantic, April 2016)

By all accounts, Richard Thomas Hills and Richard Bennett never met, though they did not live far from one another. So how did their lives–or rather, their disappearances–become so tragically intertwined?

2. “Blair Braverman is Obsessed with the Things that Scare Her Most.” (Gemma de Choisy, LitHub, August 2016) & “The Rumpus Interview with Blair Braverman.” (Erica Berry, The Rumpus, July 2016)

In the last race of her first season with the dogs that would become Mountain Dogs Racing, Blair’s team ran off the trail. “I saw it coming,” Blair writes. “We all did, the dogs and I: the right half of the trail fell away into darkness.”

It was a 42-mile night race. It was winter. Blair wrested the sled to the left, the dogs leapt, they all scrambled, but it was too late and they were going too fast. They landed tangled at the bottom of a ditch. It was six-feet deep. Her headlamp had flung off, in which direction she could not tell. She was stuck, and even with her dogs kept from bolting by the snowy pit’s depth, she was alone.

Blair Braverman is the mind–and musher!–behind Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North.

3. “Agony of the Aleutians: The Forgotten Internment.” (Alaska Dispatch News, Eva Holland, November 2014)

During World War II, the native people of the Aleutian Islands were forcibly evacuated from their homes:

“That boat was loaded up,” said Andronik Kashevaroff. “Everything was just crowded. Crowded.”

“They put us in that, what you call that in a ship? Open area?” Ella Kashevarof asked.

“Hatch. Cargo hatch,” he replied. “Cold.”

“Cold,” his wife agreed.

“I guess there was no more room on this ship, no more bunks,” he offered.

“No privacy, nothing. Just like animals,” she said.

Kashevaroff looked up from his memories then, looked right at me, and spoke firmly.

“She’s right. My wife is right. We were treated like animals.”

4. “Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness.” (Sara Bernard, The Atlantic, September 2014)

A group of courageous teenagers came forward about the sexual abuse they endured at the hands of community elders, family members, and family friends–and their stories are the rule, not the exception. Unfortunately, it’s going to take far more than legislation and surveillance to make systemic change in the “rape capital” of the United States.

5. “Wilderness Women.” (Eva Holland, SB Nation, January 2014)

I couldn’t resist including another piece by Eva Holland. In “Wilderness Women,” she enters a one-of-a-kind competition to win the hearts and minds of the bachelors of Talkeetna, including sandwich-making, wood-sawing, snow-shoeing and much more. What brings all the single ladies to this remote village, year after year?