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  1. January 2006
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  3. Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner
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  5. Ordinary Wolves

One of my favourite lines in this book is when Enuk, a hunter and friend of the family, whom Cutuk idolizes from the start, is asked if he likes wolves? Enuk answers "They got family. I like'em best then all'a animal" Perfect.

January 2006

Yes this is what I am talking about, mind you the romance of living in Alaska among the wolves ended about the the third paragraph of the first page, it was around the "dirt walls and dirt floors" bit and lack of indoor plumbing. I will stick with my wolf DVD thanks. May 05, Debbi rated it really liked it. This is a remarkable book. It is a book that almost reads as memoir, a picture of a place stripped clean of all the ideas outsiders have of the wilderness.

As I sloughed through the first section I thought I would barely survive. The descriptions of animal hunts, the lives of dogs and the extreme living conditions of the young narrator were almost too vivid. The next two sections, however, created a different perspec This is a remarkable book. The next two sections, however, created a different perspective. The novel became a study of what it feels like to be displaced. The idea of displacement is examined through the eyes of the white male narrator, his sister, who is educated and comes back to teach, the Eskimos, the Alaskan city dwellers and the wolves.

The language is beautiful and authentic. The author manages to convince the reader that Alaska is both unbelievably brutal and magical in equal measure. I give it 4 stars rather than 5 because, as I said, some of the descriptions are not for the faint of heart or stomach. I highly recommend this book as a study of place and our connection to home. May 11, Janet rated it did not like it Shelves: This is not the kind of story that you can dip into for short amounts of time. There are so many characters and different settings that it was very hard for me to remember who was who and which characters lived in what town.

The writing is beautiful; but I never did discern a plot. Jan 13, Laura Avellaneda-Cruz rated it it was amazing Shelves: Takunak, a speck in the wilderness, modern as microwaves, yet hissing with voices from a brand-new ten-thousand-year-old past: Kill every animal possible, every fur. How strange my past, even farther back into the earth--the caribou skin entrance, flickering lamplight, dreams and the conviction to hunt the land for them The book paints unsparing portraits of colonized and quickly-modernized Native village life--including, importantly, the kinds of half-glimpses that a young person might realistically get of the boarding school history and other reasons behind the problems so prevalent today.

It also paints incredibly insightful and incisive portraits of modern consumeristic culture and of white Alaskan culture and anti-Native racism as well as Native-worshipping white people. Some of the most devastating scenes that made me squirm were of white sport hunters from Anchorage and Fairbanks. But so uncomfortable too were the scenes of boys in the village drinking hairspray and Lysol, young girls getting pregnant.

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Perhaps most startling about this book was how it made me experience my own city. Cutuk, having never left the very rural Northwest Arctic, Cutuk who had to travel 2 days on dog sled to get to the village from the sod igloo he shared with his family, Cutuk arrives first in Kotzebue and then Anchorage. Running down the slushy snow in his winter muluks and soaking them through, trying to trap a lynx to eat where he is camped by the railroad tracks, wandering around Anchorage confused by cars and where all these white people are in such a hurry to go to, later navigating the social dynamic of car mechanics and astounded by how rude and stupid these white men are, confused as to why anyone would buy a dog in a mall It is an important view for anyone working with youth or families from the villages who arrive in Anchorage disoriented and culture-shocked.

This is a novel of a boy who is stuck "crawling the crevasses in between" the Native Northwest Arctic and the culture he identifies with and yet is excluded from, and the white culture that is supposed to be his but bears no resemblance to his values or way of life. He ultimately finds peace and growth back in his connection to the land, but the troubling social dynamic never disappears.

One of the best scenes was of a meeting at the tribal council in the village where outside presenters come to talk about online cultural preservation and grants. They, like so many other well-intentioned but removed people, talk in big words and without connection to the people, and therefore achieve nothing: The meeting trailed into whispers and tittering. Back on the metal chairs, we chuckled at the man's pronunciation of Joe Smith's Eskimo name. We heard "my dick. Enuk, the old hunter who Cutuk idolizes, and Janet, the very good and loving mothering character, are not the only such Native men or women.

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I wished for the sake of showing Alaska's social dynamic that the character could have come across some more healthy and self-actualized Alaska Native individuals, such as the many I know, to show not only a white Hawckly family hybrid, but show that there are many Alaska Native people who have found ways to balance tradition and modernity. Aug 16, Micheal rated it it was amazing. It is one of my favorite books in the whole world. I loved this book! A story about real life Alaska, conveying ice, caribou hair and wild meat, the dirt of a sod igloo floor littered with mouse turds, the smell and sound of sled dogs, and wolves in all their glory and tragedy.

Told from the perspective of a little boy growing into a man in a vividly realized primitive environment, rife with the wonder, hope and insecurities of a human coming from a simple, sensible existence into the complex, often wasteful and illogical world of modern humans. Cutuk is a blond haired, blue eyed five year old who longs for frostbite scars on his cheeks, a flat nose and dark features like the old eskimo hunter he idolizes.

He has the barest memory of his mother, who has fled the hardships and prolonged darkness of winter. Raised by his somewhat eccentric and idealistic father a talented artist who doesn't like to kill and absolutely won't shoot wolves along with his older brother and sister, they subsist almost entirely on the land, " They are witness to the dysfunction and decline of the indigenous population brought on by the influence of civilized culture in the form of rampant alcoholism, technology and materialism.

He is confronted with the choice of creature comforts, ease, and human companionship against the primitive, lonely, yet natural way he was bought up. A great story can't translate without great writing, and Seth Kantner writes exceptionally in a style all his own.

Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner

I run out of words that adequately describe his prose and fall back on the same cliche terms, like beautiful, poetic, brilliant! A weaver of words and sentences, thought and emotion that moves me beyond the confines of myself, out to the Alaskan tundra and into the heart of Cutuk as he struggles within himself for a place in the world. May 28, Gwenn rated it really liked it.

I found myself sort of slogging through the purple passages, but as anthropology this book was fascinating. It worked on me the same way the little house books did-as insight into a world beyond imagining, that some people just live. Hate to be cold? Nov 15, Liz rated it really liked it Recommended to Liz by: After living in Alaska for 26 years, part of that time in Bush Alaska, I can say this is an excellent depiction of 'real' Alaska and the people and other animals who live there.

I've never seen it done so well; this book made me homesick. It's a great reflection on what is real and what is important and what is not and how that all changes from person to person. I wish I could give six stars.

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Jul 28, Saleh MoonWalker rated it liked it Shelves: Ordinary Wolves - Nevisande: Aug 18, Carol Douglas rated it really liked it. This is an amazing novel based on Seth Kantner's amazing life. When Clayton is an infant, his father, Abe, chose to bring his family to a town in northern Alaska, in Inupiat territory. Many Inupiats, especially the kids, look down on whites who come there. Abe insists on living in a traditional dirt house and wearing traditional clothes though that's not what the Inupiats in their area do.

Abe tries not to spend money, while many of the Inupiats are anxious to have money. All Clayton wants is to This is an amazing novel based on Seth Kantner's amazing life. All Clayton wants is to be one of the Native people. He uses only his Inupiat name, Cusuk. Cusuk grows up learning how to hunt for survival. He despises people who do it for sport. His brother and sister leave for Fairbanks. Most of his Inupiat friends try to live in the city.


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There had been lots of drinking and pot smoking in their village, but in the city cocaine is available. Cusuk goes to Anchorage and hates it. He loves the land. Kantner loves animals and the land. He also writes beautifully.


  • Ordinary Wolves | Milkweed Editions.
  • Noroeste (Spanish Edition);
  • La teoría de la relatividad y los orígenes del positivismo lógico (Spanish Edition).
  • ORDINARY WOLVES by Seth Kantner | Kirkus Reviews.

This novel is a good education in how hard a traditional life is in northern Alaska, and how contemporary life there isn't easier. No romanticizing the Arctic here; as real a glimpse as you can get. Sits in your mind like the worn nubs of an ancient and still utilized work table. Bare, clutter-less, and important reading. Mar 07, Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing. I've thought about what differentiates an ordinary wolf from an extraordinary one and believe that the answer lies in Mr.

There are two ways of viewing pack animals - 1 as a group, acting and reacting in predictable group dynamics and 2 observing the actions and behaviors of one particular animal in a group setting or perhaps a wolf that has wandered away from his pack. This metaphor is used throughout the book to frame cultural beliefs and behaviors as opposed to the individua I've thought about what differentiates an ordinary wolf from an extraordinary one and believe that the answer lies in Mr.

This metaphor is used throughout the book to frame cultural beliefs and behaviors as opposed to the individual who leaves his culture and finds himself lost and straddling two worlds. I loved this book for so many reasons. For one, it is a grand capturing of a family living far removed from 'civilization' in a cabin without running water or electricity. An outhouse serves as a bathroom.

The cabin is miles away from the nearest Native village. Most of the protein comes from hunting and trapping. Other food arrives rarely as the closest town is so far away and the family is living in dire economic conditions. As soon as the family mother, father, two sons and a daughter settle in to this less than subsistence lifestyle, the mother runs off, leaving the children in the care of their father who is an artist who still has not reached adult maturity.

The children parent their father, providing him with emotional support and taking care of their day to day needs. Their father loves them but his capacity to parent is limited. The youngest son is the protagonist of this novel. He vacillates between hating his isolated and isolating existence to appreciating the solitude, the vastness of the land, and his ability to hone his hunting and survival skills. In an hour and a half or so of conversation, I learned that Seth Kantner grew up in the bush, and I mean serious bush -- he was over miles from the nearest village of significant size and has spent his life hunting, fishing and running sled dogs.

He grew up white in an environment that is almost completely Native Alaskan. While any number of sources would say this is insignificant, the truth is that there are a multitude of cultural differences between whites and Natives in Alaska. That constant struggle to fit in with the people he knew best is the driving force behind Ordinary Wolves. He and his family are there only because his father chose to raise his family in a northern ideal -- in a place that he had dreamed about.

Their acceptance by the people of the nearby village is tenuous at best, but it is never their choice if they will fit in and be accepted, it is always the Natives who decide. Cutuk is not sure that an easier way of life is worth it to give up his close connection to the land however, or to leave behind the people he knows best.

Ordinary Wolves

His struggle to find his place in the world drives the plot and also forces him to consider a lot of hard decisions. This is not uncommon for anyone who grows up in a very small community less than people , but when combined with the mixed race nature of the Alaskan bush, Cutuk has a lot to consider. There is no aspect of village life that he ignores, from the heartbreakingly sad lives of sled dogs something that will always bother me to the seemingly casual way in which violence is so easily dismissed.

Clearly, he knows the world he has written about. Sydelle Kramer at the Frances Goldin Agency. His own story, which is similar to Cutuk's, makes him an attractive interview prospect. View Full Version of PW.

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