If You Lived Here, I Still Might Not Know You

Book Cover Just finished a fantastic book about living in remoter parts of Alaska called If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende. I’ve crossed paths with Heather before when she received an award from the Alaska Communications Professionals in Anchorage but at the time, didn’t know who she was. Not that I didn’t read the Anchorage Daily News, but her column was being carried less and less frequently. And then I moved to Tok.

Reading about Haines, Alaska through Lende’s essays was incredibly satisfying. I love her perspective on human beings, on life, on relationships, and on life in a small town. I love the way she portrays thorny situations and real-life dramas with quiet respect and reflection. What a great essayist!

I’d love to have a modicum of Lende’s talent for conveying small town politics without getting too controversial or political. Her sensitivity is honorable and enviable. She reveals so much while still “protecting the guilty.” And you really come away from reading this book feeling like you know the people of Haines, even just a glimpse of them, and you know what it is to live in a place like Haines.

How can I tell you what it is like to live in a place like Tok? I come at this place from an entirely different place than Lende in Haines because although a transplant to her area, she has lived there for years, had children there, had a career writing obituaries for the local paper, all things to tie her more closely to a community.

I’ve arrived from “the city.” I had my only child in the city and have brought her here and hope she will grow and thrive. My career is the business I own that I run from my home which is isolating in many ways. I try to contribute to my community through this blog. I also try to tangibly contribute by making donations – monetary and in-kind – to meaningful local causes and organizations such as the Tok Tanacross Imagination Library and Duct Tape Radio and Humanities Forum. Doing the best I can.

Heather Lende’s book reminds me of the complexity of people who come to live in very small communities and who like it just the way it is. This place, like Haines, has history and layers. Nothing is like it looks on the surface. Nothing is as simple as it might seem.

You can order If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name online.

What are your thoughts of/experiences with living in a small community?

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  1. Hi

     /  August 31, 2009

    Hi, when did you leave this comment? I was thinking about relocating to Tok. ( Cleft of the rock B&B for sale) Pebo99@aol.com

  2. Great title!

    Heather Lende is one of us and anybody who writes obitituarys for a living is A-ok in my book.

    Nice blog.

    I thought about moving to Tok a couple times. They were fleeting thoughts.

  3. Julie in Alaska

     /  September 9, 2009

    I loved Heather Lende’s book as well, and especially how she structured it with her stories of interviews for the obits and then the obits themselves (I love reading obits myself). It is hard to be a transplant (fifth AK winter coming up!) and I find it especially hard not to have the deeper context of things at my disposal. Just takes time, lots of time. I am writing a novel that explores ranching life in NM, where I lived for 25 years. I could never understand how someone could write a “Santa Fe novel” after visiting for a few weeks….It is, in any case, hard to feel authentically connected to a place without loads of personal relationships. I don’t think you can achieve this without getting out and about and especially, involved.

  4. It is a hoot to read about Alaska small town life from a small town in Kansas. Things are not enormously different, aside from climate, but the isolation you have is not here. I can leave my little country home outside a town of 600 or so and be in a Walmart stuffed with 1000 people within 30 minutes. The nearby city is big.
    But the idea that small towns have elbow room is accurate. I don’t know what your career is but I am a self employed e-commerce manager with all types of clients. I work from my home and visit them when needed. The economy is taking its toll and the decline continues here.
    Yet I never, ever want to live in a city of hundreds of thousands again. Our nearby big city is filled nightly with violence and pain.
    So stay healthy and remote in Tok. And hopefully the world will never find you except through this blog.


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