reading in Alaska

I was born Alaskan Native and raised in rural Alaska.  As a child, I was filled with an intense craving for knowledge and understanding of the world around me.

The first book I really remember reading (besides Dick & Jane, ugh!) was “Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad” in third grade.  Wow, this amazing historical figure, a woman no less, knocked me off my feet!  I read it over and over.  At this point in my life, I hadn’t even seen a “black” person in real life, but I knew about them in a kind of mythical way…like people hearing about “Eskimos” up north.  (FYI, I do not call myself an Eskimo, I am Inupiaq.)  Harriet was a hero; she did amazing things to help her people.  I knew about having people.  I also had a vague sense of social injustice.  I too belonged to a specific cultural group that was different.  It was the beginning of my fascination with cultural diversity and how people fit in to the world around them.

Literature gave a little girl isolated in rural Alaska access to the whole wide world.  My hunger to learn more and discover more was born…and it was fed by my literary experience beginning with folktales from around the world found in our little school library (certainly not the disneyfied versions of today)…the little book order flyers my parents indulged me in…the magazines they subscribed me to (back when they lacked ads and promotions for consumerism, but that’s a whole other issue)… and the comics they bought me (yes, bring on the graphic novels).

Thank you Mom & Dad, Grandparents, school teachers, librarians and fellow book lovers for encouraging this amazing skill.  It has made my life RICH!

It is a privilege to work in a field that allows me to encourage the literary experience of young people today!

What are your early literary memories?