Reading the North

To Russia With Love: An Alaskan's Journey

By Victor Fischer with Charles Wohlforth (Snowy Owl Books, $27.95)

The blurb: Victor Fischer's autobiography leads through a childhood in the shadows of Hitler and Stalin, service as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention, the elected offices he held, his time as a University of Alaska faculty member in Anchorage and Fairbanks and his role in framing Alaska-Russia issues.

Excerpt: "It was 1931. Berlin, Germany. I was seven. Almost every balcony in our apartment building flew a party flag. Ours was red. We were the good guys. The bad guys had the swastika flag. There were others, but they are not in my memory.

Politics dominated even the life of this seven-year-old, as communists and fascists vied for power on the playgrounds as well as in Germany's parliament, the Reichstag. My brother George and I joined other kids from leftist families to face off with Nazi children, shoving and taunting, copying the political toughs who fought with sticks and brass knuckles in the streets.

When we saw children on another balcony in our L-shaped building flying their swastika Nazi flag, we screamed insults at them and they back at us. We had become conscious of the world around us back home in Moscow, where all of life was colored red. We had learned from our parents and from others around us the importance of the struggle for which everyone there was sacrificing."

Land of Extremes: A Natural History of the Arctic North Slope of Alaska

By Alex Huryn and John Hobbie (Snowy Owl Books, $29.95)

The blurb: This reference book includes information on the climate geology, landforms and ecology of the North Slope, a identification and natural history guide to the plants and animals found there and a history of human activity in the area.

Excerpt: "Because of low annual temperatures, the entire North Slope is underlain by permafrost. Permafrost shapes landscapes, creates dams for ponds and lakes, blocks the downward movement of groundwater, and restricts plant roots to the surface of the soil. It is clearly a major factor defining and controlling the arctic environment. Despite its ubiquity, however, permafrost is difficult to directly demonstrate.

The permafrost layer beneath the North Slope is 90-600 m think. In the foothills at Toolik Lake it is 200 m think while on the coastal plain at Prudhoe Bay it is 600 m think. This corresponds to the distribution of the annual mean air temperatures (lowest in the north). Rising air temperatures and increasing snow cover on the North Slope have in historical times warmed the permafrost. However, here the permafrost is in no danger of thawing for some time. For example, temperatures in a series of boreholes along the Dalton Highway have been measured every year for more than 30 years. At a depth of 20 m, the depth at which seasonal cycles in temperature are dampened, temperatures have risen from -25 to -8°C, from -9 to -7°C, and from -5 to -4°C at three locations from the shore of the Beaufort Sea at Prudhoe Bay to the mountains."

The Criminal Color: A Book of Realism

By Jeanne Misha Martinez Carter (Light and Glory Publishing)

The blurb: Born and raised in Anchorage, Jeanne Misha Martinez Carter presents this book of poetry, which attempts to highlight common and normalized racist remarks that might be made off-hand by friends or be repeated in media.

Excerpt: "It's really not the black thing to do,

now is it?

You like classical music?

How odd.

Swim team? You?

You were born in Germany? But...

And don't you feel just a bit

tainted when you're being

stared at in your tutu?"

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News