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David James is an Alaskan author and literary critic whose work has been published by the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaska Dispatch News, and Ester Republic. He is editing a forthcoming anthology of Alaska writing.


Recent posts
Exhibit goes deep inside Franklin Expedition


I paid a recent visit to the Anchorage Museum to take in the Death in the Ice exhibit, which explores the doomed Franklin Expedition that went in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845 and came to halt in the waters north of Canada, where all 129 men died, but not before the last survivors resorted to cannibalism. Their fate and the mysteries surrounding what happened have haunted history for over a century-and-a-half.
"The mysteries of the Franklin Expedition will never be completely solved, but the story on display at the Anchorage Museum remains as gripping as ever."
Teaching us to be better humans and Alaskans, one immigrant at a time

After five years, the Becoming Alaskan series about immigrants in Fairbanks has drawn to a close. I'll be archiving all the articles on my website this fall and exploring book possibilities. Meanwhile here's the farewell column.

"Becoming Alaskan has easily been the most rewarding writing project I’ve ever undertaken. To have so many people share their life stories and entrust me to bring them to print has been one of the highest honors of my life. Whittling each of those stories down to the 1,000 words I was allotted has been one of my hardest writing challenges. Behind every story there have been details, quotes and contextual information that I simply couldn’t squeeze in. No person’s life can be told in a newspaper article, but hopefully my summaries have captured part of the essence of each person I’ve profiled."
The man who first mapped Alaska's North Slope, and who rubbed shoulders with Arctic legends Roald Amundsen and Vilhjalmar Stefansson, finally gets noticed. Unfortunately the resultant book never brings him to life.

"The most extensive records of this and his subsequent trips are Leffingwell’s journals, and he was quite spartan in his language, something readers discover from the excerpts Collins includes. With little else to go on, she’s left to provide a daily account of where Leffingwell went and what he saw, temperatures, weather conditions, who he interacted with, perhaps what he ate, and not much more."

Elena Savostianova came to Fairbanks from Belarus and found her place in town by volunteering. Another installment in the series, "Becoming Alaskan."

“Alaska accepted us as new immigrants. The community accepted us. We need to give back something. I feel like I do now because I work for Alaskan people. It’s really good to know you can do something important.”




The story of four men in a rowboat attempting the Northwest Passage.
"The team of two Canucks and two Irishmen traveled in a custom built, one-ton, ocean-worthy row boat dubbed the Arctic Joule. They launched into Canada's massive Mackenzie River, which flows through the Northwest Territories and discharges into the Beaufort Sea, where they headed east."

The Literacy Council of Alaska helps immigrants in Fairbanks find their way to work, success, and citizenship.
“In the borough there are over 10 thousand people who don’t speak English as their first language. That’s over 10 percent of our population,” explained Mike Kolasa, the council’s executive director, adding, “Last year we had 175 English language learners students.”