Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home

Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home

by Leigh Newman


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400069248
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/19/2013
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.44(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

Leigh Newman is the deputy editor and head of books coverage for Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, Tin House, and The New York Times’s Modern Love and City sections.

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1

Excerpted from "Still Points North"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Leigh Newman.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part I Forget Me Not

Chapter 1 The Great Alaskan 3

Chapter 2 Can't Lives on Won't Street 13

Chapter 3 Homeland 29

Chapter 4 Sweat and Pencils 42

Chapter 5 Snowslide or Glacier? 55

Chapter 6 Summon the Strength 75

Part II The Middle of the Woods

Chapter 7 Dividing the World 87

Chapter 8 The Mystery of Beautiful Things 110

Chapter 9 Homemarks 120

Chapter 10 Street Wolves 137

Part III Back in the Water

Chapter 11 Love and Altitude 153

Chapter 12 Riding Out the Updraft 178

Chapter 13 Boulder, Boulder, Paddle 186

Chapter 14 Cinq de Plus 215

Chapter 15 A Tablecloth in the Wilderness 222

Epilogue 245

Acknowledgments 253

Reading Group Guide

1. In the beginning, the author describes events and objects as belonging to either an “Inside” or “Outside” world. What do these divisions represent? Do the two halves ever change or overlap? 

2. Leigh’s childhood is split between two very different worlds.  How do you think her life would have been different if she had only grown up in Alaska, or only in Baltimore? What did the combination of these experiences give her?

3. Leigh begins Part II “The Middle of the Woods” with the memory of swimming with a dolphin family. Why do you think she chose this story as a transition to the adult part of her memoir? 

4. Acquiring Leonard the dog and a more homelike new apartment represent an important life change for Leigh. What do they signify? Have you had any similar markers of transitional moments in your life?

5. Despite the belief that opposites attract, Leigh and Lawrence seem to get along because of their similarities. What does Lawrence provide for Leigh and vice versa? How does their relationship change over time? 

6. Leigh insists on catching a king salmon despite her admitted indifference to the fish. Why do you think this is? What does catching a king salmon mean for Leigh and her Great Alaskan life? Have you ever done something like this?

7. Leigh and her mother have a complex relationship.  What does her mom’s commitment to finding the wedding dress help Leigh understand?

8. Why is the scene in the Parisian flower shop an important moment for Leigh? What does she learn?

9. On page 125 Leigh realizes, “That’s the thing about parents…you don’t have to see them all that much to imitate them.” In what ways do the characters in this memoir imitate their parents?

10. How does Leigh’s relationship with her father transform over the course of her life? What were the most influential moments? What has she learned about her father and herself by their conversation in Chapter 15?

11. Why is Nana such an important character to Leigh? How does she compare to Leigh’s other grandmother, Maybelle? Why are both important in shaping the author’s development?

12. On page 220, Leigh wonders “how long do you have to live somewhere for it to be home?” How would you answer her question?

13. Of all the themes in the memoir—wanderlust, travel, family, home, and love in all its permutations—which did you find the most compelling? Why?

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Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Sara_Goff More than 1 year ago
I’ve tried writing from the perspective of a child and can attest that it isn’t easy for an adult to stay consistently in a young person’s mind, to sound believable, and still be insightful and engaging. It’s a balancing act that Newman has mastered. Even in the voice of her younger self, she inspires, challenges, and makes you fall in love with her. Newman’s silent cry for love and acceptance from her divorced parents had a haunting effect on me, perhaps because I, too, am a product of divorce and the back-and-forth routine. That said, her story is incredibly unique, and her experiences in Alaska, at times life-threatening, make you open your eyes wide and hold your breath. In addition to her beautiful writing and the delicacy with which she portrays human nature, Newman lands with a solid and satisfying ending. Still Points North is a worthy and entertaining read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in my English class and I absolutely loved it. Leigh Newman's honest, humorous, and easy-to-read style will captivate you from the beginning to the end. A beautiful story that's honest about the complexity and flaws of the people around us. A definite must-read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was expecting it to be about the area and the authors memories; but it was more about family dynamics. I'm so sorry she had to deal with this and I hope this was cathartic for her to write it. I'm sure others may like it but it just was not what I was expecting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that I couldn't put it down on my last flight. It's such a pleasure to dissapear into the heart and mind of this sensitive, thoughtful writer. Whether you've been to Alaska or suffered through your parents divorce or not, you will find her insighr both brave and surprising.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story of how a confused child of divorce finds escape as an impossible path to happiness. But also a story of the power of unconditional love in saving a child as an adult. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
abySB More than 1 year ago
A hard childhood but obviously one she enjoyed for the most part. Very dangerous at times and her father obviously forgot some basic safety precautions at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not a native English speaker; which makes it always more difficult to enter into a new book. Here it is not. A smooth entrance. Writing is fluid. It is an "invitation au voyage" to the far North, but also to the complex internal world of childhood, the weight but also the strength of the influence of the parents. Always subtly described ... Cannot wait to finish the book. A great memoir!
jenncainJC More than 1 year ago
Liegh Newman has the Saturday pancake smile and twinkle-in-the-eye of a tomboy who grew into her own unique version of womanhood. I feel like she wrote this book for me, for us - her peers who grew up loving the outdoors with our dads, then moved away in pursuit of professional dreams and complicated, urban lives. The story made me nostalgic and long for a simpler time of community and connectedness, to our families, to our friends and to the earth. Thank you Leigh for reminding me that the journey that starts from home can help me find my way back to who I really am. Pick up a copy today and dive into the delicious nostalgia! Jennifer Cain Birkmose