Dominion of Bears
Sherry Simpson, ’86, ’95
2013, University Press of Kansas
Long ago we invited bears into our stories, our dreams, our nightmares, our lives. We have always sought them out where they live, for their hides, their meat, their beauty, their knowingness. Human country and bear country exist side by side. As Sherry Simpson suggests, the relationship between bears and humans is ancient and ongoing and, in Alaska, profoundly and often uncomfortably close. And nearly every aspect of Alaska society reflects their presence, from hunting to tourism marketing to wildlife management to urban planning.
Excerpt from Dominion of Bears
All afternoon, the bears at Chenik Creek galloped in the shallows or waded neck deep in a silvery penumbra of salmon. A couple of fishermen skiffed over from the seiners to photograph the bears fishing, offering a kind of professional respect, I thought. Gulls flapped and shrieked as they snatched fish scraps from the distracted bears. The bears, the fishermen, the gulls, the watchful eagle on the bluff behind us, and the harbor seals gliding under water–all of us were here because of the salmon. Derek tried to remember a German word that means “the joy of bears” but finally gave up. “I think part of the joy of watching bears is watching other things going on in the country, “ he explained.
When we returned to camp in the early evening, we drank some beer and noodled around a question that Nora had raised. “Who cares about bears?” she’d asked, not for herself but on behalf of the legions of people who do not feel an absence of bears in their lives, who are indifferent or hostile to bears as individuals or as a species, who cannot conceive of any response to bears other than fear. Yes, why do bears matter? There are lots of ways to answer such a question: Bears make us humble. Bears help us feel alive. Bears have an ancient relationship with people all over the world. Bears are an apex predator. Bears are smart. Bears are cute. Bears are cool. Bears are an umbrella, keystone, indicator, or flagship species. Bears are cosmic, primal, iconic, spiritual, noble, sacred, profane. Bears are like us, only better. Bears are like us, only worse.
Reprinted with permission from the University Press of Kansas.
UAF photo by LJ Evans.
Should Our Undoing Come Down Upon Us White
Jill Osier, ’00
2013, Bull City Press
“As with some singing voices, there are poetic voices of such direct authority and clarity that they capture our deep engagement almost before we are aware that we have begun to listen. Jill Osier’s is such a voice. Like Franz Schubert’s song-cycle Winterreise, these poems of Osier’s take us on a lonely winter-journey through a stripped-down world, in which, as she says, ‘all the roads are well worn, all the wagons breaking.’” — poet Patrick Donnelly
Osier won a 2014 Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award this past spring.
Seventeen Years in Alaska, A Depiction of Life Among the Indians of Yakutat
Edited and translated by Mary Ehrlander, ’92, ’93,
professor of northern studies
2014, University of Alaska Press
Swedish missionary Albin Johnson arrived in Alaska just before the turn of the 20th century, thousands of miles from home and with just two weeks’ worth of English classes under his belt. While he intended to work among the Tlingit tribes of Yakutat, he found himself in a wave of foreign arrivals as migrants poured into Alaska seeking economic opportunities and the chance at a different life. While Johnson came with pious intentions, others imposed Western values and vices, leaving disease and devastation in their wake.
Natural Alaska: Life on the Edge
Ned Rozell, ’90, Geophysical Institute science writer
Pioneer creatures at the limits of their range do remarkable things to survive. Ned Rozell has been one of those animals living at the edge of civilization in Fairbanks. The frogs, bats and flying squirrels that share that subarctic space are the subject of the science and natural history writer’s book. Illustrated by Natalie Ott Schuldt, ’01.
Alaska Sampler 2014
Edited by Deb Vanasse and David Marusek
2014, Running Fox Books
Dana Stabenow, ’73, and nine other authors from the Great Land offer a smorgasbord of fiction, biography, memoir and nature writing that reaches beyond media stereotypes to lay bare a primal land that can’t be packaged or staged.
Book cover images courtesy of publishers.
Alumni VOICES — blogs to bookmark
Ink & Snow
Jamie Smith, ’98,