Reading the North

Oil and Water

By Mei Mei Evans (University of Alaska Press, $15.95)

The blurb: Influenced by her own experience during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Mei Mei Evans' novel centers on a down-on-his-luck skipper and his lone deckhand as an oil spill threatens the coast community of Selby.

Excerpt: "Lee paces the deck. Traversing the oil spill is like motoring through a boundless sewer. The stench of it scrapes the back of her throat. Oil and water, she finds herself repeating inanely, oil and water don't mix. When they enter the tide rip off Harraman Entrance, where the crude petroleum has mixed with seaweed, drift logs, and rubbish like plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, it resembles some kind of hellish cesspool.

Her stomach still threatens at any minute to ride an express elevator up her esophagus and out her mouth. A jackhammer judders inside her head, and her throat feels inflamed. From exposure to the hydrocarbons? Doesn't that cause cancer? It hurts to speak, and anyway, Gregg's glued to the radio, still not talking."

Diary of an Alaskan Madam

By Lorina Ewing (Lorina's Touch Publishing)

The blurb: The imagined diary of a brothel madam named Mandy depicts life in 19th century Nome, where Mandy is both proud of her business savvy and independence in the frontier, but also ashamed and guilt-ridden.

Excerpt: "At brunch this morning J.J. told us about losing some money to a fellow named Wyatt Earp, the owner of The Dexter Saloon. J.J. said he was playing cards at The Dexter last night and he suspected that there could have been some cheating going on. Even though Wyatt is a good friend of Tex Rickard and comes highly recommended, J.J. seemed stuck on the idea that Wyatt had cheated him.

"To help even the profit margin, J.J. has invited Wyatt to The Belmont this evening for some honest card playing. J.J. is too virtuous of a businessman and too admirable as a person to even think of cheating, and he doesn't take kindly to people cheating him. He is a true believer in the Golden Rule."

Wildflowers on the Tundra: A Beginner's Guide to Alaska

By Irene T. Winslow (KDG Educational Resources)

The blurb: The picture book, aimed at preschool and primary grade students, offers a set of terms that serve as an introduction to the geography and cultures of Alaska.

Excerpt: "Eskimo: Native people of the coastal regions who live off the sea

"Mukluks: Eskimo boots usually made with sealskin soles and caribou skin uppers

"Taiga: Spindly forests of white and black spruce in the Alaska interior

"Iditarod: Longest dogsled race in the world, from Anchorage to Nome

"Subsistence Living: Dependence upon hunting and fishing for food, clothing, and shelter

"Squaw Candy: Salmon dried or smoked until chewy, a treat for rural Alaskans and their dogs"

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News