Ordinary Wolves

By Seth Kantner,

Book cover of Ordinary Wolves

Book description

Ordinary Wolves depicts a life different from what any of us has known: Inhuman cold, the taste of rancid salmon shared with shivering sled dogs, hunkering in a sod igloo while blizzards moan overhead. But this is the only world Cutuk Hawcley has ever known. Born and raised in the…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Ordinary Wolves as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Kantner’s book, from 2004, is the first literary novel, in my judgment, to present an authentic view of contemporary Alaska.

The story (thinly disguised from the author’s own life) is told by a white boy growing up in a remote northern part of Alaska, living with his family as an earlier generation of Inupiaq people did. The boy fits in with neither the modernizing Inupiaq of a nearby village nor the white world, although he is very much at ease with the natural world and the skills his life demands.

When he later tries city life, the contrast is stark…

From Nancy's list on authentic Alaska by Alaskans.

Kantner’s autobiographical novel tells of growing up in a sod igloo on the tundra of northwest Alaska, just one of many animals surviving against the cold, bare earth. The physical and emotional hardships are extraordinary and unique—especially the racial aspects of being a White child in an indigenous world—but even more remarkable is how Kantner tells the tale. The narrator comes to us with the narrow and naïve mind of the child, and the details, so vivid and harsh, never seem more than a centimeter from the reader’s nose. I’ve never read a novel that so completely and unnervingly took…

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