There’s just nothing like discovering a gem of a book from a generation or two ago. “Tisha” is one of those books. It is the biography of 19-year-old Anne Hobbs who accepts a teaching job in the small community of Chicken, Alaska. Just getting to her destination is an arduous journey. Once there, life is even harder. Her living quarters are part of the school building, and the school has few supplies to teach with.
The community is made up of white settlers and native Eskimos. Anne is surprised to find that there is still quite a bit of racial prejudice. She thought she had left that behind when she went to the northern wilderness. Despite some angry parents, she insists that all children be allowed in school, regardless of ethnicity. Her relationship with Fred, a half-Eskimo young man, is also viewed with disapproval by many.
What I loved most about this book was the tenacity of Anne, who persevered in her beliefs and spoke up when she believed something to be wrong. She gave her whole heart to the children in Chicken, and in the end earned the respect of even those who did not agree with her.
Excerpt from page 156:
For the next couple of days it stayed so cold that Nancy and I warmed up the bed with hot rocks before we got in. Even then we tossed a coin to see who was going to get in first, and when we woke up in the morning the blankets were stuck to the wall. On Thursday it dropped to forty below, and even though we moved all the tables in the schoolroom close to the stove, Willard, Joan and Lily couldn’t work for their feet being so cold. We finally had to move the whole class into my quarters and let the little ones sit in the bed.
When Uncle Arthur showed up for school he said that if it was this cold and it was only November, we were probably in for a three-dog winter. I asked him what that was and he said that a one-dog winter was nothing. You stay warm at night with just one dog in bed with you. A two-dog winter, now that was tough, but a three-dog winter, “Well, missis,” he said, “it gets so cold the smoke freezes in the stovepipe.”
That was an exaggeration about the smoke, but it was close. Up until the cold weather hit that week I never understood why Mr. Strong kept such a big supply of laxative pills in his store. I knew after it did, though; nobody wanted to go to the outhouse until it was absolutely necessary, so by the time you went you needed all the help you could get.