Reading the North

Eskimo Star: From the Tundra to Tinseltown, the Ray Mala Story

By Lael Morgan (Epicenter Press)

The blurb: Ray Wise Mala became the first non-white actor to play a leading role in a Hollywood film, appearing in more than 25 films over three decades and portraying Hawaiians, South Pacific Islanders, American Indians and other "exotics."

Excerpt: "The evening of November 14, 1933, was unseasonably warm, and America was gripped by the Great Depression, but ermines and sables were in vogue with the high-end crowd that jammed the entrance of the plush Astor Theater in New York City. Its marquee, blazing with 70,000 lights and hyped as the largest billboard in the world, announced the premiere of Eskimo, THE BIGGEST PICTURE EVER MADE.

"No room for names of the cast. Just the five-foot-high brag line followed by 'ESKIMO' in letters that had to be forty feet high. But soon every moviegoer in America and Europe would know that twenty-seven-year-old Ray Wise was a movie star. A star against odds so great he actually found them amusing."

The Cinnamon Mine: An Alaska Highway Childhood

By Ellen Davignon (Lost Moose)

The blurb: The memoir traces the adventures of Ellen Davignon's family, from Denmark to Greenland, through Arctic Canada and finally to remote Johnson's Crossing, where they operated one of the first tourist lodges on the Alaska Highway.

Excerpt: " 'Oh no, Daddy!' I cried dramatically the next morning upon hearing the confirmation of our impending departure from Whitehorse. 'Oh no!' I blubbered, summoning all the heartbreak and pathos my chubby little body could muster. Fat tears welled, just like Margaret O'Brien's in Meet Me in St. Louis. 'How can I leave my friends? What about school? Brownies?'

"Dad ignored me and went on with his plans for the old U.S. Army camp eighty miles south of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway. My brief moment, centre stage, appeared to have drawn to its natural conclusion so, drooping like a lily, I wandered out and stood indecisively on the back step."

Keeping Kaya: Book of Judan

By Nicole Warner (Authorhouse,)

The blurb: In this Chugiak author's novel, Emperor Zain plans to usurp the ancient land of Judan after the death of its king, while villagers Kaya and Yame race to uncover the relic the king died to protect.

Excerpt: "The chill of the night air whipped across Yame's face as he ran. Branches slapped him in the face, and bushes tore at him, but he didn't slow down, not right then. He didn't like what he had just seen -- it was horrible to see. If he had known, if Zain had just told him what he was going to do, Yame could have saved them possibly, but it was all done now and only the haunting memory was left for those innocent people."

-- Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News