Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Books I've Read: If you lived here, I'd know your name

Alaska is on my list of places to visit, so when I saw If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende, I picked it up.

Heather writes the social column and the obituaries for a local paper in Haines, Alaska. Her stories about neighbors who have died and the things she learned about them are insightful and touching.

Haines is a fishing community, and working on the gillnetters, the boats used to catch salmon, can be dangerous. When you read about the loss of a young fisherman who drowns at sea, you grieve for his family. Heather's description of the events is chilling, and you can picture it so clearly; the boat going down, the family and friends gathered for news of the rescue. When you read about the community's reaction, you get a glimpse of what it would be like to live in Haines.

When Heather supported a workshop on homophobia at the local high school, she came face to face with another difficult part of living in a small town- confronting intolerance among your neighbors in a place where there is no anonymity.

Heather also talks about her day to day life. I enjoyed her stories about smoking fish in her backyard, and picking berries with friends. She has a practical outlook, and lives a simple, but rich, life with her family in a wild and beautiful place.