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Writing And Foraging For Food In Rural Alaska

Mountaineers Books

Swallowed by the Great Land: And Other Dispatches From Alaska's Frontier is a collection of compelling Alaska stories from Seth Kantner, bestselling author of Ordinary Wolves.

When Seth Kantner's novel, Ordinary Wolves, was published 10 years ago, it was a literary revelation of sorts. In a raw, stylized voice it told the story of a white boy growing up with homesteading parents in Arctic Alaska and trying to reconcile his largely subsistence and Native-style upbringing with the expectations and realities tied to his race. It hit numerous bestseller lists, was critically acclaimed, and won a number of awards.

Seth's nonfiction second book, the memoir Shopping for Porcupine, was even more compelling for many readers the same raw details of a homesteading upbringing, but intensely personal. Now, in Swallowed by the Great Land he once again brings us into his lyrical wilderness existence.

Swallowed by the Great Land features slice-of-life essays that further reveal the duality in the author's own life today, and also, in the village and community that he inhabits, a mosaic of all life on the tundra. Unique characters, village life, wilderness and the larger landscape, a warming Arctic, and hunting and other aspects of subsistence living are all explored in varied yet intimate stories. 

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Credit Alaska Public Media
Seth Kantner at a book signing event

Seth Kantner was born and raised in a sod igloo in the remote wilderness of northern Alaska. He attended the University of Alaska and the University of Montana, where he received a BA in journalism. He has worked as a trapper, fisherman, gardener, mechanic, igloo builder, and adjunct professor. His writing and photographs have appeared in Outside, Orion, The New York Times, Prairie Schooner, Alaska and other anthologies and publications. He is a Milkweed National Fiction Prize winner, and his acclaimed debut novel Ordinary Wolves, 2004, won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for Fiction.

In 2005 Kantner received a national Whiting Award naming him as one of the country s top ten emerging writers, and in 2006 he was nominated for Alaska State Writer Laureate, which he turned down in order to stay focused on his writing and time in the wilderness. He followed with a memoir, Shopping for Porcupine, 2008, and later a collection of essays, Swallowed by the Great Land, 2015. His art reflects his love for this land and the animals who live on it, and his belief in the importance of wildness left wild. Kantner lives in northwest Alaska.

Chérie Newman is an arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. Her weekly literary program, The Write Question, is broadcast on several public radio stations, and available online at PRX.org and MTPR.org.