Upside Down: Seasons Among the Nunamiut
Evocative and introspective, the essays in this remarkable collection recall an anthropologist's visits to northern Alaska's Anaktuvuk Pass: a small Native American settlement""cradled by the gray shale mountains that rise around it, verdant in the moment of summer, pristinely white in the deep freeze of winter."" Over the past two decades, Blackman traveled to the Pass about a dozen times to conduct oral history and research projects among the Nunamiut Eskimos. In this book, however, she leaves the""impersonal, omniscient voice"" of academics behind in order to give a more intimate view of her experiences with Anaktuvuk and its residents. Her prose is correspondingly more fluid and, on occasion, even refreshingly poetic. Some essays, like""Picking Berries"" and""Masks,"" discuss Nunamiut customs; others, like""Remembering Susie Paneak,"" pay tribute to particular individuals. Throughout the volume, Blackman draws comparisons between the lives of the Nunamiut and her own life in New York. For example, Nunamiut diets are affected by""fluctuations in the size of the western arctic caribou herd""--even their dogs are trained to withstand hunger, Blackman remarks--while her own diet in New York is so steady that her daughter, Meryn, can toss her home-packed school lunch in the wastebasket in a gesture of teenage rebellion. Judiciously placed observations like these help establish a context for Blackman's fieldwork, and allow readers to sympathize not only with the Nunamiut Eskimos, but also with the diligent anthropologist who wanted to learn more about them.