Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness as told to Robert Specht

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Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness is one of my all-time favorite books!  I was introduced to it when I was fairly young, perhaps in grade school.  I believe that I found it on my dad’s bookshelf.  In fact, I still have that very copy, though the binding has completely split by now.

Anyhow, this book is a little difficult to classify because it doesn’t stick to a single genre.  There’s some adventure, some romance, some social commentary, some history.  Since it’s a biography, it is a multi-faceted story.  That makes it especially interesting and entertaining.

The overarching story is about a young woman named Anne Hobbs who goes to Alaska in the 1920’s to teach in the tiny community of Chicken.  She is hoping for some adventure, and boy does she find it!  There is plenty of adventure and action throughout the story, no doubt because of the frontier conditions in Alaska at that time and the inhabitants’ ability to do as they please.  Anne doesn’t understand how things are done in her new community, so she ends up stepping on toes and voicing opinions that are not widely accepted.  Many in the community believe that the Native “Indians” are not as good as white people, and this is where Anne runs into a lot of trouble.  She decides that she will allow the native children to attend school with the white kids, and then she has the gall to fall in love with a man who is half Native American.  There are truly heartbreaking scenes throughout the book, but in the end love wins out.

This story is so charmingly told that you end up feeling like you are a part of Anne’s community.  I love all the details the book gives about what life was like in that small Alaskan town at that particular time in history.  You get a glimpse into history that is both informative and entertaining.  I would highly recommend this book to adults and possibly older teens, depending on their level of maturity.  As you’ll see from the section below, there is quite a bit of objectionable content in the book.

Possible Objections:

  1. There is a lot of racism in this book, whether it’s racial slurs or simply people voicing their prejudices.  Though those views are not advocated, they are presented without apology as the views of some of the significant characters.
  2. Racist terms–more than just against Native Americans.  There are also a few slurs against African Americans and others.  I would not want my children reading those words until they are older and better able to judge that they are inappropriate.
  3. There is mention of one man having tried to start a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the town he used to live in.
  4. A child whose father chooses not to acknowledge him is called a “bastard.”
  5. There is a passage where one of the characters beats the donkeys and horses in his pack train to make them continue.  It could be disturbing for some people.
  6. The squalor and disease that is detailed in the Native American community could be disturbing to some readers.
  7. There are some episodes of violence, with people physically fighting.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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