Barrett's Reviews > Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness
Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness
by Robert Specht
by Robert Specht
Jan 06, 2011
When I was at the official Iditarod hotel's gift shop, I somewhat indifferently asked for a story about Alaskan pioneers, hoping to reexperience a tale of wilderness, hardship, and literal trail-blazing. (Later, I learned the name of an unforgettable 1960s Alaskan documentary that I had hoped had some textual analogue -- "Alone in the Wilderness" by Dick Proenneke.) The clerk said that all the sourdoughs (born-Alaskans) read this book before they're grown, that it was a quintessential true story about a young teacher adjusting to a new rugged life. One problem was that it does exist as a woman's story, but as a story told to and then retold by a man; it lost voice and authority. It also became clear early on that a focus of the book would be good-hearted Tisha pushing back against endless waves of racism, discrimination, and ethnic hatred. Part of the reason I quit reading was because I wanted a peaceful and reflective retreat for non-sociological purposes, but also because Tisha seemed to praise herself often as an independent operator even while she was unprepared, proud, and availed herself of assistance whenever. Had I read this in middle school through freshman English, I would have stuck it out, but I recognized this simply wasn't the book for me. It was the wrong lens for the Alaska I wanted to see. And I guess I started to think that you can still go to the farthest reaches of any continent, and you can go to the vast wild forests of Alaska, and you will then still be forced to confront all the worst parts of human behavior ascribed to places that long lost their perceived innocence. I closed my book so I could watch the river go by.
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