INSPIRED BY ALASKA
At age twenty-one, Deb Vanasse was dropped by a bush pilot on a gravel runway in middle of the Alaska wilderness. No roads, no houses, no cars, no people—only a winding brown slough and tundra spread flat as prairie. She had come not for adventure but to live, an isolating but evocative experience that has inspired much of her work, including her books about writing.
Between her mountain home and a glacier-based cabin, she continues to enjoy Alaska’s wild places.
Don’t tell…but Vanasse was raised in a mental institute.
Author Deb Vanassee at Denali
Her family lived on the grounds of the state mental institution where her dad worked. The staff consisted mostly of foreign doctors, so she grew up with children from around the world, always in the shadow of the sprawling hospital and patients who walked the grounds, each more or less in his own little world. Deb lived in her own little world much of the time too. Her favorite hangout was a shed attached to her family’s barracks-style cement block house, where she’d spend hours reading and imagining story worlds.
We asked & our authors answered…
Deb has been known to…buy way more books than she’ll ever read
Things Deb likes…chocolate, good books, an occasional movie, a good hot shower after a few days of camping, warm flannel sheets, wide open spaces, soft falling snow, her friends
She’ll never get caught…skydiving; she so doesn’t like heights
A favorite/line expression and where it’s from: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
Alaskans You Most Admire: Peggy Shumaker, Elizabeth Peratrovich, DeeDee Jonrowe
Favorite Alaska places: Matanuska Glacier, Kennicott Mine, the Pribilofs
CONNECT OFF THE PAGE
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Vanasse’s engagement with Alaska Native culture began when she taught school in the villages of Nunapitchuk, Tuluksak, and Akiachak as well as in the “hub” community of Bethel. Her son, who was given the “Eskimo” name of Tuluksak elder John M. Alexie, learned Yup’ik at the same time he learned English. After a school visit to the village of Stebbins, known for its dance festivals, she wrote Lucy’s Dance.
Only a slender package wrapped in newspaper and fastened with a strand of bright red yarn remained. The guests began to murmur. Who had left this smallest gift for last? Lucy shrank back, hiding her face in her mother’s qaspeq.
“Go on,” her mother urged. Lucy felt the stares as her footsteps echoed across the gym. Taking the gift from Lucy’s outstretched hand, Apa peeled the paper back.