Each year the Alaska Library Association requests nominations for outstanding titles written by Alaskan authors and selects one recipient to be recognized with the Alaskana Award during the annual conference in March. The call typically catches my attention only for me to discover that whatever my latest read by an Alaskan author was not published in the current year. Jessica Goodfellow’s Whiteout is a great example. This collection blew me away, I bought and gifted copies to friends that weren’t even poetry readers. However, Whiteout was a 2017 release so I missed my opportunity. This year’s call was for titles published in 2018 and at long last, two books I’d recently read (in early 2019) fit the bill. Though neither of my nominations took the award this year I wanted to include them here to get the word out about these terrific books.
- Carrie Ayagaduk Ojanen, Roughly for the North: poems (The Alaska Literary Series), Fairbanks, University of Alaska Press.
- Nominee statement of significance: In the tradition of outstanding Alaskana titles like Blonde Indian and The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, Roughly for the North represents a highly-accessible memoir in verse which deftly weaves together the past and present. So much more than just a tribute to the author’s Aaka (grandmother), these poems demonstrate the Inupiat’s strong connection to the landscape and to the seasonal, the vital inheritance of cultural subsistence practices and the grief and trauma caused by the loss of such traditions.
- E.J.R. David. We Have Not Stopped Trembling Yet: Letters to my Filipino-Athabascan Family. Albany, NY. SUNY Press, 2018.
- Nominee statement of significance: Utilizing the letter form as an accessible and personal vehicle, David presents a snapshot of the current state of xenophobic policy and culture in America while filling in the gaps of our country’s “selective historic amnesia” with regard to the colonization of the Philippines and the genocide of the Philippine-American War. At the heart of these letters is David’s internal struggle with identify, the legacy of colonization of the Philippines and of Alaska and the hope that these words, guided by love might help prepare his children for the world they have been born into.
- “…the perfect synthesis of scholarship and personal revelation that neatly tackles the questions of historical and modern oppression, their roots, and their long-term effects.” — Midwest Book Review
“This is an intensely personal book and one that will provoke intensely personal responses from its readers … in the closing pages of this emotionally wrenching work by a husband and father who knows his family will always face hurdles in America owing solely to their mixed ethnicity, he somehow still finds reason for hope.” — Anchorage Daily News
“What you’re reading is a groundbreaking book: part personal memoir, part rigorous scholarship, part passionate manifesto, altogether original. We Have Not Stopped Trembling Yet is an essential work in these unprecedented times. E. J. R. David is among the leading Filipino thinkers we have today, and this book more than lives up to that distinction. Read it, share it, talk about it.” — Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and founder and CEO of Define American
“David, through his deeply personal words to his family and community, masterfully calls our attention to the systemic injustices that perpetuate themselves under the false promises of the American Dream; offered only to some, invisibly blocked to others. We, the witnesses and fellow victims to this truth cannot look away—we must not. Maraming salamat, E. J., for your vulnerability and courage. May it serve to grow the awareness necessary to shift the trajectory of our future ancestors’ experiences.” — Jorie Ayyu Paoli, Vice President and Indigenous Operations Director, First Alaskans Institute
“David is gifted with the wisdom and philosophical acumen of an Elder. I emerged from the deep, dark truths about the aftermath of colonialism emanating from David’s heart with an amplified sense of urgency to instill hope, resilience, and belief in current and coming generations that this world can and will be ‘a better place.’” — Pausauraq Jana Harcharek, Director of Iñupiaq Education, North Slope Borough School District
“David has written a spiritual, self-examination, and cultural critique of his American and his Filipino family. It reminds me of the duality of Black consciousness elegantly depicted by W. E. B. Dubois. In the final summation, he exhorts his native family to love and believe in themselves, to shed the idea that they are special because of their Americanness, and to reclaim their kapwa—their humanity. He also challenges White America to find theirs. David has rendered a powerful and valuable meditation, guided by self-reflection and familial love, and grounded in intellectual discernment and a generosity of spirit. An inspiring and informative read.” — James M. Jones, author of Prejudice and Racism, Second Edition
“This book is a heartbreaking and heart-validating masterpiece about a Filipino American immigrant man who worries about the future of his children in what was once deemed a ‘post-racial’ America. In his letters to his family, he tackles a spectrum of issues affecting people of color—from unlawful police deaths to historical trauma to immigration reform. His intersectional lens in understanding how his own multiracial kids may be forced to overcome obstacles like colonial mentality, toxic masculinity, institutional sexism, and stereotype threat is one that is rare, raw, and refreshing for an academic. He brilliantly uses personal stories, historical facts, and contemporary media accounts, while tying in scientific psychological and epidemiological research, to demonstrate how racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression are slowly killing us. In sharing the grief, anger, and trauma of losing his childhood friend to unjust police violence, his voice becomes one that represents the weight that ‘woke’ Black and Brown Americans carry with us daily, as we continue to survive, thrive, and tremble in this society.” — Kevin L. Nadal, author of Filipino American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice
“David takes often theoretical constructs such as ‘internal oppression,’ ‘white privilege,’ ‘historical trauma,’ and provides visceral, emotional contexts through examination of his own personal life and the lives of his loved ones, both ancestral and current. He delivers those contexts through well-crafted letters to his wife, sons, and daughter explaining the complexities of their realities in an approachable, easy-to-understand manner. One of David’s most striking analyses is bridging the perceived gulf between Native Americans and his status as a Filipino who immigrated to Native American lands. This is an important work that ties together histories, generations, and peoples and provides the reader with a solid grounding to challenge the dominant narrative.” — Bonnie Duran, Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, University of Washington
“History is about stories of conquests through the ages. Historians often write those stories with a dispassionate view of colonization and oppression. E. J. R. David’s book gives a personal narrative on topics of oppression and racism to his family. It’s also a gift to others whose voices have been muted. ‘Letters’ to his family is a time capsule worth reexamining.” — Jim “Aqpayuq” W. LaBelle
“An eye-opening dive into the complex social impacts of colonization and intergenerational trauma told through the personal story of an immigrant Filipino psychology professor. Written as heartfelt letters to his family of mixed Koyukon Athabascan and Filipino heritage, it is an intimate and raw journey into awakening and truth. I recommend it widely to immigrant, Indigenous, and mainstream populations alike!” — Evon Peter (Gwich’in Athabascan), Vice Chancellor for Rural, Community, and Native Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Board member for the Gwich’in Council International