Take a Bite of Made of Salmon

By Mary Smith | June 03, 2016
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Made of Salmon
Image by Clark Mishler

Sometimes it’s hard to write about salmon without resorting to cliches. But more than 50 contributors have managed to do it in the pages of Made of Salmon: Alaska Stories from The Salmon Project. Sure, you’ll find some common themes winding their way through the pieces in the book, but what keeps these stories fresh is the sincerity you hear in each author’s voice.

Writer and editor Nancy Lord curated this collection (including photography from Clark Mishler) and organized it in a way that allows you to enjoy both the longer, more in-depth pieces by some of our favorite authors (Seth Kantner, Kirsten Dixon, Heather Lende, Dan O’Neill, Julia O’Malley) and shorter takes by salmon lovers from around the state. 

The mission of the Salmon Project is in essence the mission of the book. “The Salmon Project celebrates wild salmon’s place at the heart of Alaskan life, and the diverse ways it is present in our values, our culture, and our landscape.” Nancy Lord’s introduction, along with a graceful forward from Bella Hammond, and an introduction to the Salmon Project from Executive Director Erin Harrington recount that mission for readers.

The book grew from a project with a smaller scope. The Salmon Project, working with Lord, solicited salmon-centric essays from a variety of well-known writers that were originally published in 2014 in partnership with the Alaska Dispatch News. The series was so popular that a second collection began to emerge, and a decision was made to include stories from anyone in the state that had a connection to salmon - whether they were writers or not. Lord recalls being surprised at the number of submissions that flooded in. Even more so, she was surprised at how many different perspectives were represented, from all around the state. “We were looking for a diversity of style and substance, and we got it.” 

Those unique voices are what keeps Made of Salmon a compelling take on what salmon means - commercially, spiritually, historically, even as background for relationships starting (and ending). This book will feed a deeper hunger to connect with others who think of salmon like you do - whether that’s as a gift or a number, a memory or a relative. You can join Charlie Campbell as he fights for Yukon kings at a Board of Fish meeting or eat a sockeye--every bit of it--with Michael Raudzis Dinkel. Work alongside Julia O’Malley or Kirsten Dixon as they weave cooking technique with stories of love and loss. Grow up with Emma Teal Laukitis in False Pass. See Kotzebue through Willie Hensley’s eyes.

I recommend reading this collection on a full stomach, unless you have some salmon on the grill. Personally, once I start thinking about a slab of king salmon, Yoshida’s and a batch of white rice I can’t stop until I’ve gotten my hands on some. You’ll hear the sound of sizzling peanut oil and smell the just chopped green onions in the pages of this book and like me, you’ll head for the galley. 

Pick up a copy of your Made of Salmon at your favorite local, independent bookstore or order a copy here

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