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Human Being Songs: Northern Stories (The Alaska Literary Series) (Paperback)

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The public image of Alaska for those who live elsewhere tends to be bound up with the outdoors. But while that’s not necessarily false, it’s a far from complete picture. This collection of stories shows us what we’re missing: set in Alaska’s cities and suburbs, homes and back roads, cars and kitchens and bedrooms, it offers not tales of adventures, but quietly powerful psychological dramas, introspective explorations of the private triumphs and failures of personal life played out in an extraordinary place.
Jean Anderson delicately balances the lyrical and the experimental to tell the stories of hardworking Alaskans—teachers, laborers, dental hygienists, artists—worrying over fairness and equity and meaning, falling in and out of love, and pondering elusive, long-dreamed-of goals. Powered by a rich empathy, Human Being Songs shows us life in Alaska as it’s actually lived today—its successes, failures, and moments of transcendent beauty.

About the Author

Jean Anderson is the author of In Extremis and Other Alaskan Stories and coeditor of Inroads, an anthology of regional Alaska fiction.

Praise For…

“Stories that brilliantly reveal the inner lives of people we thought we knew, in a northern landscape Anderson skillfully renders as both exotic and familiar.  With compelling narration, she draws us into worlds where women confront their individuality, asking universal questions as they delve into memories, cope with families and widowhood, buoyed and sometimes undone by the power of love.  These are lyrical excursions into the depths of the human heart and psyche.” 

— Carole L. Glickfeld, author of SWIMMING TOWARD THE OCEAN

“With a fine eye for detail, Jean Anderson tells stories of ordinary people who become extraordinary as she presents their conflicts and ambitions. Her characters live their daily lives in beautiful Alaska, and Anderson treats them with respect and compassion and imbues each story with great feeling.” 

— Susheila Khera, author of Step by Careful Step

Human Being Songs speaks of themes embraced by many other books (fiction and non-fiction) set in Alaska embrace: alcoholism, driving on ice, neglected children, Native American children living in poverty, the homeless, epidemics and the challenges of bad weather that rattles the bones while it rattles the windows dripping with condensation. But it deviates from the usual form of those themes, tales of  wolves and "surviving" in the wilderness, to limn the lives of older women--the women "of a certain age" who are usually shadow characters if they are mentioned at all. . . . ‘My best self is a traveler,’ Anderson writes. And we all agree, many of us wishing we could be Alaskans of long standing too.”


— Ann Chandonnet, author of Write Quick: The Life of a Woman in Letters, 1835-1865

“The stories often read like meditation as their protagonists follow the ‘shifts and curves’ of their own minds, contemplating through circuitous and surprising routes life’s painful perplexities and occasional joys. . . . In all situations, Anderson’s characters love and live fully, searching for truth, while her narrators invite us into protagonists’ minds and experiences as female Northerners making stories, singing the songs of their preoccupations.”

— Gabrielle Raffuse

“Though these stories are uniquely Alaskan, they’re not ‘trying’ to be. That is to say, there’s no forced artifice trying to capture the 'real' Alaskan experience by focusing only on fishing, homesteading, the sublime beauty of nature, or any of the other big Alaskan Symbols™ that one usually expects. Instead, the genuine article shines through in the details, in smoke-choked summers where the snowpiles still linger and bitter cold winters observed from the warmth of a car. It quietly adds depth to the thoughts and lives of real people struggling with their mundane lives, allowing the reader to feel like they’re getting a brief glimpse into the lives of their hypothetical neighbors.”

— Daily News-Miner

“There are no glaciers or grizzly bears, no moose or mountaintops. Instead, the stories explore the lives of women living in Alaska’s towns and cities, as they make art or make a living, fall in and out of love, commit acts of kindness, or crash cars. Like Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America and Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women, Human Being Songs introduces characters who are varied and complex.”

— Northern Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9781602233133
ISBN-10: 1602233136
Publisher: University of Alaska Press
Publication Date: February 15th, 2017
Pages: 136
Language: English
Series: The Alaska Literary Series