Blog #8: Modern Alaska

This week your assignment is to discuss a few (3 or 4) of the contemporary writers we’ve looked at since the midterm and discuss ways in which what they write reflects a more modern version of Alaska and the Yukon.

In Edna Ferber’s “Ice Palace” she mocks outsiders’ conceptions of Alaska. One of the characters describes his idea of Alaska as a state “full of saloons and dance halls.” I’ve worked in the tourism industry and it always amazes me how many tourists travel to Alaska and expect us to live in igloos out on the tundra. Large parts of Alaska have been modernized for decades. We have airports, and McNuggets, and color television. We are just as modernized as the lower 48, which is something that no one expects when they hear the word “Alaska.”

Karen Rendlev’s “Progress” describes the changes that occur in Fairbanks over the course of six years.

“Every corner had a shopping mall

selling pistachio nets and gourmet-delites.”

Fairbanks continues to grow in size and culture. There are strip malls dotting the city, we have modern conveniences. An outsider need only look at the variety of restaurants the city offers to understand the diversity of the population. Fairbanks has changed substantially and continues to do so.

In “Beat the Qaaviks” by Nick Jans, he describes how the sport of basketball has become a cultural phenomenon throughout Alaska. Rural villages use basketball as a community activity and as a way to steer teens away from alcohol and to channel their energy into something productive. A lot of people consider this a type of cultural corruption. With youths participating in other activities, it takes time away from the study of native culture and tradition. This has become a common concern among the native populations.

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