Verdict: GROWING UP ALASKA is a sentimental journey, connected deeply to the Alaskan land, which, for the author, embodies memories of old friends, community, and family—especially her father.
This sentimental memoir tells the story of the author’s childhood in the isolated Alaskan town of Tok. When her father takes a job at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, the author’s adventure begins to take shape, drawing a consistent parallel between the wild, free-spirited nature of childhood and that of the landscape surrounding her.
Tschirgi moved to Tok, Alaska in 1982, at the age of 6. Residing a few miles outside of town, her early years were marked by playing in the woods just outside her back door, snow mobile rides, and icy dips in Moon Lake. Within the pages of this book, the author grows into a teenager and recalls the typical rites-of-passage—albeit with an Alaskan twist—such as attending prom in the snow and week-long journeys to high school basketball games.
GROWING UP ALASKA is a book of memories that reads like a personal diary of recollections. The writing style is stream-of-consciousness and jumps around chronologically, bringing the reader outside the narrative far too often. For example, in the same breath as explaining her initial voyage north, the author writes of her departure ten years later from the Great Land. This problem persists with a lack of the thick description of both characters and places that would help draw the reader into her world. There are, however, a few poignant passages to capture the reader’s imagination.
Tschirgi too often writes of the banal details of a typical American adolescence, experiences that many readers will find easily relatable but not particularly interesting. The truly remarkable details and sections of the work focus on her uniquely Alaskan adventure—like plastic Halloween masks shattering in the cold. The larger themes within the work, which would lend interest and gravity, are just barely hinted—isolation and community, man’s relationship to the wild, place and memory, and the concept of home.
As the author looks back upon her childhood in Alaska, the reader is inclined reminisce—recalling a time when life was bike riding, exploring the landscape, and making one’s own fun with friends.
GROWING UP ALASKA is a sentimental journey, connected deeply to the Alaskan land, which, for the author, embodies memories of old friends, community, and family—especially her father.