Growing up in Alaska prepares you for anything

During the pandemic, Leigh Newman’s upbringing in Alaska really took off. At some point, she made preparations in case there was a total social meltdown in NYC, where she now resides.

“I have a home in rural Connecticut that is my pretend Alaska. i have chickens When I’m disconnected from society, I can go bird shooting,” she says, laughing. “I had food, water, life jackets and Gatorade for 6 months. Then I bought a raft. And I thought, ‘Someone is going to fight me for this raft.’ I was ready to launch it from Carroll Gardens into the Gowanus Canal. I said to my kids, ‘Don’t tell anyone we have this raft.’”

In her collection of short stories, Nobody Gets Out Alive (Scribner), she pays tribute to her home state. these are exactly what they sound like: moose hot dogs. (Her 2013 memoir about growing up in Alaska, Still Points North, was a finalist for the National Book Critic Circle’s John Leonard Prize.)

“I’m tough,” she admits. “I grew up hunting my own food and flying planes. My father treated me like one of the boys. I had my own pistol. You have to be able to do many things.” It is necessary in a place where preparation can make the difference between life and death.

Growing up in Alaska taught author Leigh Newman to resist the power of Mother Nature.
Growing up in Alaska taught author Leigh Newman to resist the power of Mother Nature.
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

“If something is on fire, there is no fire department. I lost a friend to a black bear they encountered on a hike. You hear these stories over and over again. In Alaska you cannot imagine that you have more power than Mother Nature. Thinking you know everything is when people die.”

While she’s lived in New York on and off since 1993 – spending ten years as a travel writer during which time she was traveling frequently – she finally found peace in 2004 when she became pregnant and moved to Brooklyn.

While the city is certainly a change from its home state, it’s not as different as you might think.

Author Leigh Newman
Author Leigh Newman
Nina Subin

“NYC and Alaska are both survival cultures,” she says. “People speak plainly and at the same time are aware that someone could hurt them if they speak to clear. People are very open and welcome. [Alaska] is a frontier culture and full of personality and eccentricity – and in many ways, so is New York.”

“On TV, people from Alaska are often toothless and driving ice roads,” she says. “In reality, the intelligence of most Alaskans is quite high. A lot of people came to Alaska to do it; They are very entrepreneurial, maybe social outcasts. [In the book], I wanted to show a side of Alaska that didn’t show people living under a tarp in the Alaskan bush – but people doing real jobs. An accountant who is also a bush pilot. Being a lawyer but climbing mountains at the weekend. I wanted to show the close bonds of community. I wrote it because I love it.” Growing up in Alaska prepares you for anything


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