cover image Playing with Fish and Other Lessons from the North

Playing with Fish and Other Lessons from the North

Robert James Wolfe, . . Univ. of Arizona, $17.95 (137pp) ISBN 978-0-8165-2485-3

Wolfe, a cultural anthropologist, worked from 1982 to 2001 in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He spent those years documenting subsistence economies of the far north and taking note of the difficulties that economic development "opportunities"—such as proposed navy home ports in coastal cities or changes in laws regulating fishing and hunting—posed to the traditions of Alaska's native populations. He was profoundly changed by his experiences, and in these graceful, sensitive essays reflects on what he learned in a place where there are no locked doors (in case a passing stranger needs to get in out of the cold). He does not attempt to live alongside of bears (which should be kept at a respectful distance) or play with fish (because fishing is a subsistence activity, not a sport). After moving from the sparsely populated state, whose capital has only 13 traffic lights, to a rapidly growing town north of San Diego, he looks back on his days in Alaska and finds inspiration in "America's last frontier," where the old ways of living convey a message about survival, for humans as well as for nature. (Apr. 6)