Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spotlight on Alaska Books: The Hard Way Home, by Steve Kahn




“I think of how human interests developed early in life often stay with us. Adult passions seem like a modified version of a child’s delight. The boy from my neighborhood who pushed toy trucks around now operates heavy equipment for a living… I felt most at home when guiding in the backcountry or hauling crab pots from saltwater bays. The pull of streams never diminished; coming across even the slightest trickle in forested country still elicits in me that childhood sense of abandon.

“These days, I subsistence fish for salmon with a net and put set lines out for burbot… Standing alone, I’ll cast into the clear water… Gloves keep my fingertips from turning white while I cast and vow to stop at some number… But I seldom stop at my intended goal. I continue on, in a timeless present, savoring one last cast.” (The Hard Way Home, Kahn)

Steve Kahn moved at the age of nine from the “metropolis” of Anchorage to the foothills of the Chugach Mountains. A childhood of berry picking, fishing, and hunting led to a life as a big-game guide. When he wasn’t guiding in the spring and fall, he pursued his pilot’s license, which took him to the far reaches of the Alaskan wilderness. He lived through some of the most important moments of the state’s history: the 1964 earthquake, the Farewell Burn wildfire, the last king crab season in Kodiak Island waters, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill and cleanup.

The landscape of the essays in The Hard Way Home extends from Admiralty Island in the southeast to the Teocalli Mountains of the interior, from the windswept Alaska Peninsula to Kahn’s present home on Lake Clark. These essays offer a view of Alaska that is at once introspective and adventurous. Here we find the state’s people, geography, politics, and culture considered from an intimate perspective, leading to hard-earned lessons about conservation, sustainability, and living well. Ever the irrepressible guide, Kahn invites readers to share his experiences and discoveries and to consider questions about a place, and a life, that is disappearing.

“Alaskan Kahn has written a series of heartfelt, yet understated, essays about life on the Last Frontier that will appeal to nature lovers and thoughtful outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen. . . . This is quiet Alaska, and much closer to the truth than most depictions."—Colleen Mondor, Booklist

"The Hard Way Home provides an excellent firsthand account of life in rural Alaska. It is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, anyone wishing to learn about life in the wilderness, and those interested in Alaska history." —Greg Urquhart, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

Steve Kahn is a lifelong Alaskan and former hunting guide who lives a subsistence-based lifestyle on Lake Clark near Port Alsworth, Alaska. He is a contributor to the anthologies Wild Moments: Adventures with Animals of the North and Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment. Kahn is also a guest blogger for 49 Writers. The Hard Way Home was published in 2010 by the University of Nebraska Press, and is currently available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

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