Amore, Martha and Lucian Childs, editors. “Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry”, University of Alaska Press, 2016.
Alaska has always been known for the diversity of its population that is made up of “people with many different backgrounds, viewpoints, and life experiences”. “Building Fires in the Snow” gives us a look at the diverse lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through stories and poems collected in this anthology. We see an Alaska that shatters stereotypes and reveals a side of the state that few have seen until now.
What we see here is a depiction of the gay experience away from its typical milieu and are reminded that the LGBT community is everywhere and not just in big urban centers like New York, Boston and San Francisco. The focus here is on the relationship between the writers included and the wilderness that surrounds them. What we see here is not at all unfamiliar as LGBT film face the same issues everywhere whether that is on Fifth Avenue or the Alaskan wilderness. Yet if I had to pick a single theme to characterize this collection it would be the word love. Editor Martha Amore shares the way Alaskans love and make families while editor Lucien Childs writes of the struggle one has trying to fit in.
Community, which is so important, is evident throughout the writings and we see it as powerful and tender as well as a way to survive. When one is a member of a community there is both comfort and strife but these are not isolated issued.
We notice that there are no Alaska Native voices are represented in the book. I find this to be and I wish that they were included. This anthology is a wonderful addition to both the Alaskan and the LGBT canon— especially the selections that deal with the search for place, love, and adventure lie at the heart of the Alaskan experience. We read of the ultimate human experience but we also see that this can keep LGBTQ Alaskans from finding employment, housing, and other elements of what we call a civilized life. The conversation has only just begun in Alaska.
We cannot just look at this book as a collection of short fiction and poetry by LGBTQ Alaskans but rather we must look at the way it depicts the LGBT experience away from what is its typical milieu. We are all aware that literarily speaking, the city of New York is the center. Yet we also know that LGBTQ people and art are everywhere and that is what this anthology shows so perfectly. It represents the variety of who we are and the selections all deal with the usual topics of coming out, first love and societal rejection. There are stories that will always be important and here they also reflect the environment, spirituality, rural life and isolation and that is what makes this collection both unusual and unexpected.
In the introduction, editors Martha Amore and Lucian Childs outline the collection and give us a We see the breadth of subjects Alaskan writers cover on an individual level and because the writers showcased are not easily categorized, we have cause for celebration. If I have a problem with the anthology, it is that it includes too much. But this is not really a problem when we see the end result. I believe that the reason this book is so important is contains a wide variety of racial, religious and economic backgrounds, even within its Alaskan home. As different sexual orientations become more visible, it becomes more and more important to show the range of experience that exists within the community. We certainly see here that there is more to the LGBTQ world than can ever be considered.