What’s your academic background?
I finished college as a creative writing major with an interest in outdoor education, where I worked briefly after graduation. However, I still felt like I had questions about this world that needed exploring. I went back to school, this time with a focus in American literature and the environment. After finishing my Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, I taught in the Humanities Department at the University of Alaska, Southeast, until joining APU this year.
Who inspires you?
Alaska’s former Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes remains one of the most formidable and inspiring figures I’ve known, not just for her achievements (as an artist, an elder, a teacher), but more importantly for the ways she’s lifted up so many others. I encourage anyone to read her first book, Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, to see what I mean.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
What’s the last book you read?
This summer, I spent a lot of time walking the trails with my elderly dog and baby daughter, while listening to an audiobook of Moby Dick. I think people get turned off by its reputation as a big, ponderous tome. It sounds old, slow, boring. In reality, this is a book where everything is turned up to 11, from the language to the epic urgency. For 135 unrelenting chapters, Melville absolutely shreds. What I’m reading now is quite different but motivated by some of the same concerns: my friend Bjorn Dihle’s book A Shape in the Dark: Living and Dying with Brown Bears, which just came out this year. This past year and a half, for so many people, has been filled with uncertainty, with a sense of being touched by forces we can’t see clearly or understand, and more than just whales or bears, ultimately both writers are interested in how we deal with that uncertainty— ultimately, with how we coexist.
What are you currently watching on Netflix?
The British Baking Show! Contestants gather in a big tent to make pastries and politely cheer each other on. A skeptic might call it escapism: a soothing fantasy where everyone gets along and every meal is dessert. In times like ours, though, I think its positivity is compelling.
If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go?
Staying close to home during the pandemic has reminded me that as much as I love to travel, there’s so much to see right here around us.
If you were a crayon, what color would you be?