Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Book Review: Tisha by Robert Specht

Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness

Tisha:  The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness
As Told To:  Robert Specht
Publisher:  Bantam (1976)
342 pages
Genre:  Non-fiction, Memoir

"I've lived in the Forty Mile country of Alaska for a long time, but even now, every so often when I'm out rock-hunting or looking for fossils, I get lost.  Sometimes I'll have to wander around for a while before I get my bearings.  That's what happened to me when I first started to think about telling this story.  I wasn't sure which direction to take, until I finally realized that the only way to tell it was the way I might have told it when I first came to Alaska."

The year was 1927.  Anne Hobbs was nineteen years old when she was offered the job of teaching school in a gold-mining settlement near Yukon Territory in Alaska.  Since the time she was a young girl, the idea of living on a frontier was exciting to her.  So, of course, she took the job.  

The story reads like a novel and tells about Anne's first year of teaching in Alaska.  It begins with the journey to Chicken and ends when the school year has finished.  The journey was much more difficult than she imagined.  And when she arrived in Chicken and was shown to her living quarters, she was confronted with an empty room and had to ask the women escorting her if she could have a bed.  Thankfully, it was just an oversight and a bed was brought right away.  

As Anne begins teaching classes at the one-room school, she is confronted with some things she didn't expect.  One is that the school is intended only for white children.  So when she invites a native child into the classroom, many of the townspeople are upset and tell her she can't do that.  Another is that some of the "old-timers" drop by and sit in on class.  This doesn't create much of a problem and the children find their stories interesting.  Throughout the year, Anne is confronted with the prejudice that is rampant in the area.  She tries to do what she feels is right, even if it means she won't be allowed to teach next year. 

I enjoyed this story.  I learned much about Alaska including the harshness of the winters and how people survive during them.  I found Anne's teaching style interesting and some of the things she  did reminded me of when I was homeschooling my children.  She understood that if they were to learn, they needed to be interested in what they were doing.  This led her to create a project that they could all work on together that involved making a map of Chicken and learning the history of the town.  

At the beginning of the story, I felt like I was missing something.  There wasn't much information given about Anne before this year of teaching which left me feeling like I had entered the story in the middle.  I would have liked to know a little more about Anne before she went to Alaska.  But that was a minor thing and didn't take too much away from the narrative. 

If you are looking for an adventure story with a female heroine, or would like to know more about Alaska in the 1920's, I recommend this book.

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