In her debut collection, Melinda Moustakis brings to life a rough-and-tumble family of Alaskan homesteaders through a series of linked stories. Born in Alaska herself to a family with a homesteading legacy, Moustakis examines the near-mythological accounts of the Alaskan wilderness that are her inheritance and probes the question of what it means to live up to larger-than-life expectations for toughness and survival.
The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destructionsometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each otherand live to tell the tale. While backtrolling for kings on the Kenai River or filleting the catch of the Halibut Hellion with marvelous speed, these characters recount the gamble they took that didn’t pay off, or they expound on how not only does Uncle Too-Soon need a girlfriend, the whole state of Alaska needs a girlfriend. A story like “The Mannequin at Soldotna” takes snapshots: a doctor tends to an injured fisherman, a man covets another man’s green fishing lure, a girl is found in the river with a bullet in her head. Another story offers an easy moment with a difficult mother, when she reaches out to touch a breaching whale.
This is a book about taking a fishhook in the eye, about drinking cranberry lick and Jippers and smoking Big-Z cigars. This is a book about the one good joke, or the one night lit up with stars, that might get you through the winter.
About the Author
Melinda Moustakis was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and raised California. She received her MA from UC Davis and her PhD in English and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. In addition to winning the Flannery O'Connor Award, her book Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories won the Maurice Prize, was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her stories have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Conjunctions, Cimarron Review, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. She was named a 2011 "5 Under 35" writer by the National Book Foundation and is currently a 2012–2013 Hodder Fellow at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.
Nancy Zafris, the current series editor for the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, is the former fiction editor for the Kenyon Review and a Flannery O’Connor Award winner for her short-story collection The People I Know. She is also the author of two novels, Lucky Strike and The Metal Shredders.
Table of Contents
The Mannequin in Soldotna 3
The Weight of You 17
Us Kids 33
This One Isn’t Going to Be Afraid 43
Point MacKenzie 53
Miners and Trappers 65
Some Other Animal 89
Mr. Fur Face Needs a Girlfriend 107
They Find the Drowned 125
What You Can Endure 137
The Last Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show 147