Travel Through Story: The Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii

Lathe of HeavenI’m continuing my tour of the United States through literature by heading up the coast to the Pacific Northwest. My first stop on the way is Portland, Oregon with the science fiction classic, “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula K. Leguin. It tells the tale of George Orr, who can manipulate the world with his dreams, but they have become nightmares for him and so he tries to never sleep. He seeks help from a psychiatrist who quickly begins to use George, through hypnosis, for his own gain. But, in spite of things going horribly awry, the psychiatrist is not willing to stop.

My Body is a book of rules book coverMoving on into Washington, I plan to read “My Body is a Book of Rules” by Elissa Washuta. This is a memoir of a woman who is suffering an American Indian identity crisis on top of a medically enhanced mania and depression as well as past sexual trauma and self-doubt. To cope, she develops rules for her life, drawing from her Catholic education, Cosmopolitan articles and the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Moloka'i book coverAnd now to head off continent — I will go to Hawaii — “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert is the story of Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, who is diagnosed with leprosy and is banished to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Set in the 1800’s, anyone who is diagnosed with leprosy is thought of and treated as a criminal. They are dumped on the island with nothing and left to fend for themselves. By the time Rachel arrives in 1893, there is a thriving community to greet her.

the great alone book coverFrom Hawaii, I will head on to Alaska. In Kristin Hannah’s “Great Alone,” a former Vietnam POW has difficulty dealing with his world so he decides to move his family, his wife and daughter, to a remote Alaskan village where he has inherited a bit of land from one of his military buddies. They will live off the land and not have to deal with the American society of the lower 48 states. But this story is really his daughter’s story. She was 13-years-old when they arrived in Alaska. She learns to love Alaska but her father’s terrors don’t ease and even become worse when harsh winters keep them in darkness most of the time.

Here is a list with more options for each state on this leg of the journey if you want to follow along. You can also find past posts in this series at Travel Through Story: The Deep South and Travel Through Story: The Southwest.

Bon Voyage!

Image credit: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons

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