HISTORICAL FICTION - ALASKA 1970
This book was another Netgalley find. If I am not familiar with the author I usually have my interest piqued by cover art on Edelweiss and Netgalley, but with this one it was the title. I am an extremely olfactory centered person, so this title made perfect sense to me. The fact that it was set in the 1970s was a hook for me too. I have not come across a story set in this particular time period before.
I immediately connected to this story because I was thirteen years old in 1970, and although I did not live in the Alaskan countryside, I did live in rural Upstate N.Y. and there were a few similarities. The 70s feel of the setting is spot on. I am a strong supporter of write what you know, and this author did.
What held my heart with this book was the intertwined storylines. The story is told from four points of view and I usually don't care for more than two POVs, but it is so beautifully done that I ended up loving it. Some of the character's paths do not intersect until nearly the end of the story and the anticipation of when and how is exciting. This book is also a sensory banquet. Hitchcock is skilled at bringing the reader all the sounds, sights, and of course smells of the characters' Alaskan environment. I also love how she shows that we all need to realize life is not an even playing field, and we should not be judging people by their circumstances, but be helping them instead. This story has a hint of "butterfly effect" which I adore.
The author shows the effects of generational poverty, racism, entitlement, and stereotyping on children and teenagers in this narrative. Although the story is issue related, it is also an entertaining read, which I feel is important in Young Adult literature.
I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.
Here is where I question, refute, and defend the book from things I have read in some of the not so stellar reviews on Goodreads, and remarks I have seen around the blogosphere.
Beyond the idiotic statements like, "Ew, that title. Who would want to read that?", which I don't understand because other people's houses can smell like freshly baked bread and sugar cookies, or lemons and sandalwood incense, among other things; most of the negatives, and they were generally from not so bad three star reviews, were about not liking the four different POVs. Please don't let that put you off reading this book because the multiple views are not confusing. One person on Goodreads said the characters were underwhelming. Underwhelming? I don't think they could have possibly read the book. If they did, did they understand this is a story about regular people struggling with real life situations, not a book about superhero and fantasy figures?
Now we get to the biggie. A Native Americans in Children's literature blogger, whom I follow and respect, and generally agree with; called this book out for perpetuating negative stereotypes. Stereotypes were included in the story, but they were ideas held in the 70s, and the narrative conveys that they are a result of generational poverty, not one's race; which to me is a teaching moment. There were more examples of resiliency and determination to succeed than negative portrayals. In my mind you cannot write Historical Fiction effectively if you do not include the beliefs of that period, and if the character's actions and reactions do not reflect their time and place. The difference is in whether they are being used to show the beliefs are wrong, unfounded and/or misplaced. I think the author did a stellar job pointing out how those stereotypes were, and are, invalid.
I especially liked this author interview by AMERICAN BOOKSELLER'S ASSOCIATION.
Have you read any Historical Fiction set in the 1970s? If you have let me know because I would love to read more of it!