Journalist Lende (Find the Good) delivers a detailed and amiable chronicle of her three-year term as assemblywoman in Haines Borough, Alaska, a municipality of roughly 2,500 people in the state’s southern panhandle. Frustrated by “the circus of national politics” and the “speak first, think later” approach of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, Lende ran for borough assembly in 2016. She describes the Haines electorate as “violet with red and blue highlights,” and sketches the local, state, and national issues that matter most in the community, including climate change, the economy, a “multi-million dollar harbor expansion project,” gun rights, the town’s costly private dump, and declining oil revenues. After spending $1,000 on her campaign, Lende won with 501 votes, becoming one of two new members to the six-person assembly, where she encountered stiff opposition to her “relatively liberal politics,” including a contentious recall vote—an experience that led her to examine how gender stereotypes affect women in politics. Lende successfully balances the dry facts of assembly reports with humorous character sketches and lyrical odes to the natural beauty of Alaska. The result is an honest and inspirational investigation into why “it’s easy to say what’s wrong with government; it’s harder to fix it, and progress can be very slow.” Agent: Elizabeth Wales, the Wales Literary Agency. (June)
"Written in her usual sprightly, witty, humble, effervescent style, this one will please [Lende's] fans." —Kirkus Reviews "Lende’s vivid descriptions, good-natured humor, and adoration for her quirky neighbors further energize this engaging tale." —Library Journal “A detailed and amiable chronicle of [Lende's] three-year term as assemblywoman in Haines Borough, Alaska . . . Lende successfully balances the dry facts of assembly reports with humorous character sketches and lyrical odes to the natural beauty of Alaska. The result is an honest and inspirational investigation into why 'it’s easy to say what’s wrong with government; it’s harder to fix it, and progress can be very slow.'” —Publishers Weekly “In this fraught, bewildering American era, Heather Lende’s latest memoir is a blessed balm…What a blessing Lende’s view of democracy, which she calls ‘glorious chaos,’ is in this dark era.. She reminds us about the dreams we share, especially now, as we cry for, and struggle to save, our beloved country.” – The Minneapolis Star Tribune “[Lende’s] hard-won experience serves as both a Trump-era warning and a clarion call for citizens everywhere to honor public service and the representative democracy that depends on it.” – Anchorage Daily News ““As the reader follows [Lende’s] soul-searching perseverance, a heartwarming realization of our common humanity and of our struggles to understand and live with each other shines through. This is, above all, an uplifting story of democracy at work in a far-flung, beautiful part of the U.S.” – Booklist “Heather Lende's fourth book about her hometown delightfully and insightfully explores small-town life and politics, Alaskan style.” – Shelf Awareness “Citizenship—real, active citizenship of the kind we badly need—is hard work, as this book makes clear. But it’s also rewarding in a profound way; hopefully this will inspire people to work with and for their neighbors in all kinds of ways!” —Bill McKibben, author of Falter “All politics is local, so it’s said. If you haven’t served on a local board or commission you haven’t lived. If you have served and lived through it, Heather Lende feels your pain, and will have you laughing at hers. Sometimes a first rate writer also happens to be a first rate human being. I love when that happens.” —Tom Bodett, humorist (and former chair of the Selectboard of Dummerston, Vermont) “Heather Lende has the voice of that friend down the street you love to chat with over coffee—the one who knows everything going on in town, but also knows the difference between gossip and storytelling.” —Tom Kizza, New York Times-bestselling author of Pilgrim’s Wilderness and The Wake of the Unseen Object “Heather Lende’s brave, big-hearted book about her run for local office fairly bursts with affection for her place and its people. By the end you’ll be torn between wanting to move to Haines, Alaska, and wanting Heather to take the helm of your hometown.” —Melody Warnick, author of This Is Where You Belong “An uplifting reminder that democracy works in America. While its setting is an extraordinary landscape of mountains, glaciers and the waters of Lynn Canal, the political scene and the cast of characters Lende captures will find resonance in every corner of America.” —Bruce Botelho, former Mayor of Juneau, Alaska “This book is a fine story—many beautifully-woven stories, in fact, told with compassion, wisdom and wit—about democracy, community and decency in small-town America, and how to save the best of who we are. It’s medicine for the soul. I vote for Heather Lende.” —Kim Heacox, author of John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire “Heather Lende has captured the essence of small-town governing in a community as politically divided as our nation is today. She reminds us that public service is hard, but also meaningful.” —Fran Ulmer, former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska
In 2016, Lende (If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name) was elected to the assembly of Haines, AK, a town in the southeastern part of the state accessible from the mainland via boat or plane. Here, she discusses the issues before the assembly, including harbor renovations, appointing a town manager, recreational permits, and assigning house numbers. Naturally, the town's strong personalities make appearances. Additionally, the author reflects on her own mistakes as an assembly member and the lessons learned during her tenure. Descriptions of municipal matters could be dry and boring, but Lende's vivid descriptions, good-natured humor, and adoration for her quirky neighbors further energize this engaging tale. Throughout, Lende emphasizes the need for bipartisanship, as she knows everyone in her community personally and does not want to lose friendships over politics. When several of the politically conservative members of the town attempt to recall Lende and two of her fellow assembly members, she reconsiders her dedication to the community, the assembly, and her friendships. VERDICT A heartfelt ode to civil service. Recommended for readers interested in government, civil service, and small-town life.—Rebekah Kati, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
A memoir from an idealistic older woman who won political office for the first time.
Welcome back to Haines, Alaska, population 1,600. The cast of characters and places Lende wrote about in her three previous books return in this homespun foray into local politics. Following the 2016 election, the author, a local journalist who owns a lumberyard and hardware store with her husband in beautiful, remote, rural, and politically active Haines, decided to run for one of two open seats in the Borough Assembly against five other residents. “Hillary [Clinton] won Haines,” writes Lende, “as did Obama before her.” The author describes the town’s electorate as “violet with red and blue highlights.” Preparing her run for office, Lende hired her friend Teresa as her campaign manager and spent $1,000—“and thought that was too much.” The author decided to run because she wanted to be the “kind of woman who says, and believes, that she can change the world through small acts, in small places.” She received 501 votes out of 1,032 cast, and her term was three years. The assembly chamber, she writes, is “about as charming as the waiting room of a juvenile detention facility.” After somewhat mastering the intricacies of Robert’s Rules of Order, Lende tried to govern, but relationships with friends became strained as she confronted various issues, even a proposal to ban plastic bags or whether houses needed addresses on them. Some of her important votes—e.g., regarding a wastewater treatment plant, new regulations on alcohol sales in bars, and a mining permit—had unintended consequences and led to a “drumbeat for recall” for Lende and three others for “misconduct in office.” Though the recall attempts were “soundly defeated, it left her wondering if “national politics floated up to small-town Alaska.”
Written in her usual sprightly, witty, humble, effervescent style, this one will please the author’s fans.