Ernestine Hayes’ memoirs have attracted widespread praise and garnered her several prestigious awards, including an American Book Award. Hayes is a Tlingit elder and her works weave together myth, fiction and autobiographical details to produce rich, multi-layered examinations of her life. Hayes is also Alaska’s Writer Laureate and recently she was in Fairbanks giving the keynote address at the Alaska State Council on the Arts conference. I had a chance to speak with her following that address.
KUAC television is premiering a new series called Into the Woods. It focuses on three Fairbanks residents who take part in a painterly boot camp. Instead of a red-faced and shouting master drill sergeant however, they are guided gently into artistic techniques and approaches by Kes Woodward, painter, art historian and professor emeritus at University of Alaska Fairbanks. As you’ll hear, KUAC producer Makenzie Landry came up with the idea for the series after profiling Woodward for a shorter project.
The Equinox Marathon is in its 56th year and its elevation gain and root-scored trails can be intimidating for runners used to flat conditions and paved roads. While the event caps the Running Club North’s Usibelli series, for Drew Harrington it proved a springboard, propelling him to tackle longer, more grueling events. He even helped organize the Angel Creek 50-Miler race.
Most of us know or work with people who hail from another country. But asking how the people actually made it here demonstrates a keen instinct for story. That is the case with David James. Many know him for his book reviews in the Ester Republic, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and other periodicals. But for the past several years he’s been profiling many of the people who left other countries, seeking a place where hard work and safety could produce a rich and satisfying life. It turns out David James’ own story, in many ways, mirrors those of his subjects. He had no idea he’d be a respected writer when on a whim he accepted an invitation to come to Fairbanks.
Also, Randy Zarnke, who recently received the Leadership award from the National Trappers Association, says when the manuscript by a 19th century miner came to his attention he knew he had to bring it to print.
I continue my discussion with Linda Thai. She was two when she and her parents fled Viet Nam as part of the “Boat People” exodus. Locally, her story was first captured by David James in a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner profile piece. While Thai’s family found safety and opportunity in Australia, being a foreign minority in Australia presented its own challenges, not least to Linda and her sister as they grew up between worlds. Despite the challenges, Linda says she has found her way home.
The issue of immigration is again a dominate concern in the United States. Over the decades, the Irish, Eastern Europeans and Chinese met with hostility and at times violence when they sought opportunity or asylum on our shores.
David James is a local writer and reviewer who has a series in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner profiling immigrant Alaskans. He suggested today’s guest to me. Linda Thai was part of the Vietnamese exodus in the 1970s. She was only two years old when she and her parents boarded an overcrowded boat in the middle of the night to escape the persecution and possible death. As you’ll hear the found a new home in Australia, but the trauma of events still shapes their lives.
This show is an encore conversation that originally aired in 2016. Last week I was on Ester Dome Road when I saw a figure running towards me. It turned out to be endurance athlete Bob Baker, known to many as “Bad Bob.” He was out training. In itself, that isn’t remarkable. But I reflected that it was a little more than two years ago that “Bad Bob” collapsed following a running race in which he competed. As you’ll hear, it isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say he died. And, it also isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say he was too ornery to stay dead. Luckily, there were several physicians at the race and defibrillating paddles. Not only did he survive, but in the fall, he participated in the Equinox Marathon, albeit walking and jogging in the race, not running. With so many people preparing to run the September race again, I decided to replay the conversation.
After more than three and a half decades teaching, conducting research and leading various departments and units at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Provost Susan Henrichs is retiring. Susan was born in Alaska and after a sterling performance studying chemical oceanography at University of Washington and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, she joined the UAF faculty in 1982. Later she would lead various departments at the school, including the graduate program in marine sciences, dean of the graduate program for UAF and vice provost. She was named provost in 2007.
In those years, she earned a reputation as a great leader. Several faculty members shared stories when they learned I was interviewing her. They talked about an administrator who put in long hours, gave her people room to do their jobs without micromanaging, but also was available for advice. And they all said she put students first. I will be talking with her again on Monday, July 23rd as part of the Memory Lane series for Summer Sessions.
This episode we visit with Reese and Logan Hanneman. The brothers, who were raised in Fairbanks, have chalked up impressive wins in Nordic skiing. They were tapped to join this year’s U.S. Olympic Cross-Country Ski team. But as you’ll hear, nothing is certain on the track for Olympic gold. Reese narrowly missed participating in the games four years ago and Logan is considering giving the games another go. When the opportunity to interview the brothers presented itself, I asked former UAF Nanook and U. S. Head Ski Coach John Estle to pose the questions.
Local poet and former state writer laureate Peggy Shumaker has not only produced a substantial body of poetry and prose, but she has worked tirelessly to nurture and champion the talents of other writers. She also contributes her insights as an editor for University of Alaska Press and Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. She’s out now with a volume of new and selected writings, called Cairn.
But first on the show, former Fairbanks writer Claire Rudolph Murphy often targets her work to young adults or children, but there is nothing juvenile about her latest book’s theme. Bobby and Martin is a timely examination of American leadership viewed through the lens of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.’s lives and legacies.
Four years ago, a series of presentations by kids from Tanana galvanized the statewide Elders and Youth and Alaska Federation of Natives conferences. The young people, wearing camo-kuspuks, shared a disturbing litany of abuse, suicide, pain and addiction in their community. They were members of a local 4-H club started by my guest today. Cynthia Erickson is a store owner in Tanana. After she and her family were rocked by a sequence of suicides, she decided enough was enough. If this were Hollywood, her pluck and determination to make a difference by starting the local club would have resolved the issues into a better way of life for the young people of her village. As you’ll hear, it didn’t play out that way. After an initial flurry of concern and attention, life settled back into old patterns, and Erickson discovered the 4-H organization wasn’t the right fit for the political action she had in mind. So, Erickson started her own organization called “My Grandma’s House.” Later this month, she is organizing a family event at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. That’s followed by a healing journey down river to several Interior communities. Her effort has found support from various Native and local agencies. I spoke with Erickson last week about her drive and the speeches delivered four years ago by her kids.
Also, on the show: For most of us, mathematics beyond balancing the checkbook or calculating a tip can be abstract and intimidating. It is a subject best left to professionals. But as University of Alaska Fairbanks math professor and Northern Soundings’ Math-Guy John Gimbal tells us, that isn’t always the case. Be prepared to think in color and on an infinite plane.
And, author and neurologist Oliver Sacks died in 2015. He’s best known for his early book Awakenings, which was made into a popular movie starring Robin Williams. But Sacks also published on a wide range of topics. He always brought to his subjects, elegant prose and deep and compassionate reflections. Reviewer Frank Soos looks at several works by Sacks, including a volume published last year, River of Consciousness.