Haines author and current Alaska State Writer Laureate Heather Lende will be in Juneau Sunday to discuss her latest book, which she said in an interview with the Empire was a cautionary tale about current American politics.
Lende will read from her latest book, “Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics” on Sunday, Nov. 7, from 3-5 p.m. at Hearthside Books’ Mendenhall Valley location in the Nugget Mall.
Lende’s work has been featured in national outlets, including the Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. She was named Alaska State Writer Laureate in July. Lende has lived in Haines for 40 years and has written several books about life in small-town Alaska, including New York Times Bestseller “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name.”
In a phone interview with the Empire Lende said her latest book, “Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics” was one of the most difficult of her career and to her symbolizes much of the division felt across the nation. In 2016, Lende ran for and won a seat on the Haines Borough Assembly, but she and three other Assembly members were immediately subject to recall votes which Lende said were bitter and divisive.
“The wrong people voted, that’s what the leader of the recall told me,” Lende told the Empire. “The people who voted were more progressive than he believed were the majority in the community. If only the right people had voted.”
The recall of Lende and fellow Assembly members Tresham Gregg and Tom Morphet was initated by Don Turner Jr., over accusations of violating the Alaska Open Meetings Act. Lende and the others survived the recall handily, the Chilkat Valley News reported in 2017, with initial results showing 61% of voters opposing Lende’s recall. Voter turnout for the special election was higher than the past two general elections in Haines, according to CVN.
Lende said the recall left the town bitterly divided, and made writing her latest book the most difficult of her career.
“All three prior are in some ways love letters to Haines,” Lende said. “’Bears and Ballots’ was very different, and hard. It’s still kind of hard, I’m still coming out of it.”
It’s a kind of divisiveness Lende said she sees elsewhere in the state and the nation.
“It’s so interesting to me to talk to people in this small town when it comes to issues that we think we all agree on something but then they’ve heard something on a national news outlet that’s not true but they believe it because it’s what’s their friends are sharing,” Lende said.
Lende said the problem was one of communication and trust, which she attributed to social media and other “news tunnels.” She said her experience on the Assembly served as a cautionary tale.
“It got worse during the pandemic because we all went online,” Lende said. “It’s really easy to demonize people on social media, when you don’t see them or their children. It’s a casualty of the pandemic.”
Hearthside Books owner Brenda Weaver said she was excited to be able to host an in-person event. The event will be held in a suite in the Nuggest Mall across from Hearthside’s location, Weaver said, and seating will be arranged to try and social distance. Masks are required by the city, Weaver said.
There will be a book signing following the reading, Weaver said, and Hearthside has several copies of all Lende’s books available for purchase.
Know and Go
What: Alaska Writer Laureate Heather Lende, reading and signing books.
When: 3-5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 7.
Where: Hearthside Books, Nugget Mall, 8745 Glacier Highway.