More awesome news for Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series – the US Review of Books just sent me its “Seal of Approval” and highly recommends Volume Four. To say I’m speechless is an understatement. We are on a roll! And here’s the complete review that US Review of Books recently published:
July 25, 2016
Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Four
by Phyllis Downing Carlson and Laurel Downing Bill
Reviewed by Mihir Shah
“This road is built for war, but this road will be used when peace and victory come back to us again.”
Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Four is an exceptional account of Alaskan history. From a mere glance at the title, audiences unfamiliar with the preceding Aunt Phil’s Trunk volumes may think they’ve stumbled upon another dense history book to read. This could not be further from the truth. A collective effort between the authors, volume four is a treasure trove of pivotal moments in Alaskan history, illuminated by monumental photographs, detailed captions, and thoroughly enlightening insight, including stories of the individual’s that helped Alaska survive and eventually prosper economically. From World War II to the Cold War and from the segregation of native Aleutians to the brutality of internment camps, this gem leaves nothing out. Perhaps the most remarkable feat of Aunt Phil’s Trunk is the authors’ ability to deliver their clearly exhaustive research within the confines of a fluid, entertaining, and narrative writing style.
Even historians, pseudo-historians, and general aficionados would be surprised by some of the revelations within these covers. For instance, once a meager town of 4000, Anchorage, whose police force would use a stopwatch to clock speedsters, evolved into the home of Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base, and Alaska became one of the key strategic pieces in controlling World War II. The life and impact of Anton Anderson, one of Anchorage’s earliest settlers at a time when many were fleeing, is just as intriguing a read as any other story in this volume.
Aunt Phil’s Trunk focuses on a particular story or individual and weaves in the historical moments from their perspective. Undoubtedly, there is a large amount of content for the reader to digest in one reading. To combat this dilemma and highlight particular parts of the text, the volume places borders around biographies of key figures and other interesting snippets like the official U.S. Air Force Song. Unbiased, it would not be far fetched to suggest that the nearly thousand-page, high-school history textbooks could adopt this model, and they would find fewer kids with their heads on the books and more heads in the book. Rather than implanting myriad pictures to fill up the pages and leaving the readers to contemplate the meaning, volume four supplies detailed captions that could stand strong on their own. Moreover, the authors’ passion exudes from each story.
Any individual with even the remotest affiliation with Alaska is bound to find a spot on the shelf for all these volumes. Stylistically, it is easy to read, an organic style that flows like you’re reading a novel. With that said, it must be mentioned that non-Alaskans who are just generally interested in US history, like the impact Pearl Harbor had on turning Alaskan cities like Anchorage into a crucial military base, will not be disappointed. It might not be altogether outrageous to say that this book should be considered a relic. Few books can take such a multitude of historical accounts and wrap them up so neatly that the layman can understand and enjoy the minute details.
The volume begins with commentary on World War II and the crucial role that Alaska played, as evidenced by one of the more famous quotes stated by the man who essentially predicted the Pearl Harbor attacks, Brigadier General William Mitchell: “I believe in the future, he who holds Alaska will hold the world.” The volume essentially shows how Alaska was built into the economically sound, Californian state that it is today. In the process, readers will truly relish the glimpses into the lives of individuals like Clyde Slim Williams, who, with his dog team, sled to the existing North American Highway System in British Columbia in 5 months.
Stylistically, the volume caters to the fast-paced reader as well as those that enjoy reading via visuals. If a picture could really be worth a thousand words, then those in this book are clearly it. Crisp images of crucial, historical moments, taken right in the heat of the action will exhilarate readers and are like a work of art in their own right. Aunt Phil’s Trunk has the thoroughness of a Ph.D thesis, and natural storytelling abilities that combine for a truly enriching foray into the last frontier that anyone will enjoy.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review