Folks who enjoy salmon-themed literature will be pleased to know they’ll have an opportunity to score a free book this fall. Erin Harrington is the executive director of the Salmon Project, which is the organization hosting a statewide book drop. The “drop” she says, will involve distributing almost 1,200 books to roughly half a dozen communities around the state.
The book being distributed is King of Fish – the 1,000 year run of salmon.
“Which is by David Montgomery, who is a geomorphologist down at the University of Washington, and wrote this book a little over a decade ago about salmon and the interactions between salmon and people across ranges in Europe, North America, on both the east and west coasts of the United States and Canada and then up around the corner, just barely touching on B.C. and Alaska. So it’s a really fascinating book that looks at more than 1,000 years of the way people have interacted with this fish and relied on it. And then it looks at some of the lessons that can come out of those other geographies which have largely lost their salmon.”
Harrington said the book drop idea was modeled after the popular Big Reads, which promote community literacy and conversation by distributing different texts for free.
“The intellectual opportunity I think here, or the community opportunity, is to read the book, find out about the history and then ask ourselves what is relevant for our lives here in Alaska.”
Harrington said she believes King of Fish is a book that everyone in Alaska should read, whether or not they have been immersed in the salmon culture the state depends on. For her personally, she said it was astonishing how much information was in the book, and how much she learned despite growing up around fish her entire life.
Harrington said the Salmon Project will distribute the books in Kodiak, Homer, Sitka, Petersburg, Cordova, Juneau and Fairbanks.
“In Cordova we’re actually going to reach up river as well, up through the Copper River watershed into some of the interior communities and see if there’s room for a regional conversation there based on their shared watershed. We’re also looking at doing a book drop in the YK Delta region, probably focused on Bethel and then a regional book drop also in the Mat Su Region. The Mat Su is particularly interesting because there’s so much interesting work going on around salmon up there right now. People are really hands on in thinking about how salmon interact with their communities and it just seems like a great ripe time for just one more piece of that conversation.”
The books will likely be distributed at a local business in those communities over the next few months.
“Like a coffee shop or a book store and we’ll distribute the books free of cost. And we have a lot of resources that readers can use as well to either spur conversations with their own families, maybe in a reading group, maybe in a book club, maybe through whatever organization convenes conversations in that community. And people will get the opportunity to read, share, pass the book along and discuss with people and see what it brings up for them and to play with the idea of what their Alaska chapter might be.”
Harrington said books have a long shelf life, and the hope is this will generate conversation about salmon for decades to come as the copies are passed on and move through each community.
Money for purchasing the books came from the Salmon Project, which Harrington said is made possible through foundation funding. She said they were also able to work out a deal with the publisher for a special printing of the book.
Here in Kodiak, the book drop will be from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at Harborside Coffee on October 25.