Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spotlight on Alaska Books | Secondhand Summer by Dan Walker

I drank, forcing the Kool-Aid in between my tongue and the swelling log of sandwich. The Kool-Aid was like glue that attached the massive wad of sandwich. More if it ran out both sides of my mouth as I gasp for air. Wiping my chin on my sleeve, I was thankful for the extra seconds to think. What should I say to Mrs. Taylor? No one had asked me that before. In fact, I had never met anyone before who didn't already know my parents and my whole life story. Mrs. Taylor handed Taylor another sandwich and took my silence as an invitation to ask another question. "Is your father stationed here at the Air Force base?"
My face turned red. I could feel it. And my eyes watered. I shook my head, and, suddenly, the mass on my palette dislodged. I gulped it down and blurted out, "He's dead." (Dan WalkerSecondhand Summer)

Secondhand Summer begins in Ninilchik, a tiny Alaskan community where the Barger family fishes for salmon. The father's death forces a move from their homestead to an apartment in a poor section of Anchorage. The tale is about Sam, a twelve-year-old boy who loved the homestead fishing life he left behind. Like most kids his age, his physical abilities and his imagination exceed his judgment and knowledge. The story focuses on the boy’s adventuresome adjustments to the big city, the loss of his father, and becoming a teenager. An abandoned nightclub, which Sam and his friends take over as their "fort", absorbs Sam's attention, energy, and gives him chance to escape from an adult controlled world, but his time runs out when the teenagers take over and then the city steps in. By the end of the summer, Sam looses his club, one of his new friends, and his idealism, leaving him feeling quite alone as he enters seventh grade, wilder and wiser.           

“Secondhand Summer is based on my own experience when I had to move to Anchorage from our homestead near Ninilchik after my father died. It was a summer of great change and adventure for a boy from the woods to move to the big city. Many of the experiences are very real, but it is a novel. I worked for years as a teacher, and in the process of developing this book with my editor, I realized how important it is to write books that boys want to read, our most reluctant readers. I also want the book to be sophisticated enough that it would engage adults. I think it tells a good story of life in 1965 on Government Hill in Anchorage.” — the author

Dan Walker is an Alaskan homesteaders’ son who grew up to become a teacher and a writer. He has worked as a chef, innkeeper, merchant seaman, fisherman, and carpenter. Drawing from these varied – and storied – experiences, he has blogged at and written essays, professional articles, and fiction in magazines and literary journals. Dan has over thirty years in education and was named Teacher of the Year for Alaska in 1999. Today, Dan works with schools in rural Alaska and shares life on a lake near Seward with his college sweetheart and muse, Madelyn.

Dan has been a member of 49 Writers for two years. His writing workshops and consulting work take him throughout Alaska from Sitka to Barrow to Perryville, where he is devoted to working with teachers and students and rewarded by experiencing the remote Alaska that few people get to know. Secondhand Summer was released in paperback by Alaska Northwest Books on June 7, 2016. 

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