Reading Response #3

Select one of the assigned readings this week (either Lamott chapters or  "Killing Wolves"  by Sherry Simpson), and post a 500-word response below. Be sure to also make a comment on a classmate's response for full credit.

26 thoughts on “Reading Response #3

  1. Delaney E Reece

    From start to finish I absolutely loved reading Bird by Bird. I think the way that Lamott has been able to rope us in as the readers and make us her students in her class which we are not actually attending is exactly what she is talking about in the very end when she references the wedding. We need to feel like we are there, without knowing how it happened but that however, it did it was comfortable and natural.
    At the beginning of this last section where she addresses the need for people to read your work and the way that it makes you feel I personally felt a really strong pole. I find myself very defensive when my work is under scrutiny. Because it is so important to me, and it is something that I have poured so much time and effort into, that to have it torn apart or critiqued in any way is an offense on my own person. Although she didn’t give any way to handle the situation, just knowing that there was another person out there who felt the same extreme emotions about something that seems so trivial when broken down is a real comfort. By being this comfort I hope that I’m able to remind myself that it’s normal for authors to feel like this about their work and that someone critiquing it is for the better, and to keep going.
    After spending the entire day of the book talking about what it means to write, and how to do it I think that her concluding with some of the technical aspects really puts a hat on things. Her talking about the buildup of publication and the lack of fireworks When it really happens, or if it does is very realistic. Without having experienced it, she turns it into real everyday life happenings and that makes you feel both better and worse. At the same time, I think it is so reasonable and important to address this part of writing, because in some cases that is the larger goal.
    After reading her chapter where she address is what it means to write, and why people write the things that they do I found myself with the desire to find a new topic and a new purpose. This by no means, means that my purpose before was bad, but I think that with a more meaningful direction any work that I do could grow substantially.
    When she talks about and addresses the issue of liable Is when I really understood that I had learned something about her through the process of this book. This section was by far the funniest part to read, and also very realistic as well. It gave a reasonable way around this legal issue and addressed an issue which I would have never thought of. I’m very thankful to have had her address this in both a serious and light-hearted way because I would have been likely to rudely include someone in my own work.

    1. Lilia Lundquist

      I also appreciate how Lamott evokes so much emotion in her writing. I find that this is the best way to truly pull your readers in. When you are able to place yourself into what you’re reading it makes it more than just a experience but a emotional / mental journey.

    2. Benjamin Hayward

      We are our biggest critics. I am not afraid of hearing another opinion. Everyone has an opinion. If you surround yourself with “Yes!” men and women, you will soon find yourself falling flat. You need the negative along with the positive. For feedback to be effective, you need to ask your reviewer “Why?” five times to get them to quantify their statement. Usually, I get to the core reason by the fourth “why?” They say your work is the best thing since fire and sliced bread, ask “Why?” They say your work is mud, and you should burn it like you burn water, ask “Why?”.

  2. Lilia Lundquist

    Growing up in Alaska has helped me develop an appreciation for stories pertaining to our beautiful state. While I can usually find connections in any piece of literature, there is a certain feeling of closeness when I get to read about my home. Sherry Simpson’s piece that battles the tradition and ethical aspect of trapping wolves is extremely thought provoking. Her description of the different sensations she feels when wearing or even briskly touching her pelts is descriptive to the point where I can put myself in her shoes. I grew up with my mother sporting Alaskan caught clothing. While I thought of it as its own aesthetic, I always felt a tinge of sympathy for the various critters that lost their lives in the name of fashion.
    Simpson’s piece helped give me a more in-depth look into the guidelines and tactics used in the trapping community. I reread the bit where she compares wolves and humans a handful of times. It to me sounded like poetry when she talks about the way men and wolves kill for pleasure. This almost dehumanized people and labeled us as equals. There is a level of respect for the wolves reflected off the men who trap them. While this alone may not be seen as justification for their actions, it helps lessen the cruelty aspect. Simpson reminded me that predator is a broad term, taking the life of another for the sake of survival is not limited to four legged beings. That said, I still had a difficult time siding with Maesk and his large hauls of slaughtered wolves. The description of his routine for success, made him appear relatable. It was difficult to not be impressed by the amount of time and effort he put into his craft. However, my sensitive nature wouldn’t allow me to shake the image of a pack being massacred, followed by the killers wide grin of satisfaction.
    The ruthless nature of wolves does not lead me to feel sympathy for their prey or those who fall victim to their cruelty. I imagine what it would be like to live in such an environment that they call home. I think I too would kill just for the sake of passing time. When you grow up in an unforgiving environment, I can not imagine empathy is something that is easily learned. Being a trapper and having to deal with the struggles that come with Alaskan wilderness probably creates a similar mindset. Survival is the goal no matter what it takes. This piece helped me to understand the nature of the trapping community. Prior I considered trapping to be bloody and full of cruel intentions. Having your final moments of life consist of a snared leg and thoughts of panic still does not sound ideal. However, seeing as how wolves grow up and are accustomed to brutality, this is probably not the worst way to die. Simpson was able to give new light to a controversial subject with poetic language and intriguing characters.

    1. Tometria Jackson

      I appreciated Sherry Simpson shining the light on this aspect of Alaskan living. I didn’t know that much about trapping; just the animal-rights side of the issue. Trappers, like all other subsistence users in the state operate by a code of ethics, and they respect the resources that provide a living for them. Yes, it is a cruel fact of life that animals must die so that humans can live but I appreciate the fact that trappers dispatch the animals as humanely as possible.

      1. Natalee Fleming

        I have never hunted before and I don’t think that I ever will go out hunting. Living in Alaska I have nothing against people going out hunting especially if they need it and use it, I am not a big fan of people just going out hunting just for the fun of it. So for people to go out and hunt these animals just so that they can make fashionable hats upsets me, but if people go out hunting and use the animal for all the meat then give the pelt up to be made into a hat doesn’t upset me.

    2. Kelsey

      I understand how you feel so torn! I struggle too because obviously I love the humans in my life, but sometimes humans are awful, and I almost always feel that animals are the more vulnerable and when they are savage or wild, it’s more easily written off that it’s just because they are wild. However, pieces like this can make you see the other side, aren’t humans the same way? We all do these things to provide for our families or pack? I feel like being raised in a hunting or trapping family would make you even more torn because you have an understanding of both sides.

  3. Tometria Jackson

    I enjoyed Sherry Simpson’s essay, Killing Wolves. Her approach to the subject was very relatable for me because she was so truthful about her own contradictions. While she appreciated the warmth and comfort of wearing animal fur and eating meat, but she didn’t want to face how it was procured. I loved her line, “Even though I was raised in Alaska, I was also raised on Disney where creatures sing and talk…” Simpson struggled with accepting the fact that violence is a part of survival for both humans and animals. While acknowledging that wildlife management is necessary for predators and prey, Simpson shied away from its bloody, brutal, reality. She stated, “…I recognize a moral blind spot, a deliberate turning away from the way life and death proceed.” In a brave move to confront the unknown, Simpson enrolled herself in Wolf Trapping School.

    Simpson’s essay wasn’t just about the technical process of killing wolves; it was more of a recognition of the intelligence and skill of both trappers and wolves. The men she interviewed for her piece were straightforward in admitting that trapping is a violent, bloody business, but no more so than what would be experienced in nature. The trappers themselves seemed to have a respect for all the animal life they trapped, but especially for wolves. When speaking about the tricks and techniques used by successful trappers, there was the impression that they were matching wits with an opponent and not a mere animal.

    Throughout history, wolves were used in tales as representations of sneakiness, cunning, deceit, and danger. Their status as props in moral stories made them different; they were more than just animals. For some, wolves are a screen upon which people can project the worst characteristics of human nature to justify targeting them. For others, wolves embody the wild, free spirit of nature. Simpson says, “…the wolf becomes a distorted reflection of the human psyche…” There is something otherworldly and mythical about wolves; they have a knowing in their eyes that seems to place them intellectually above other animals.

    Upon returning to the meeting hall during trapping school one evening, Simpson saw what she initially thought was a large black dog lying on the table. It was discovered in a trap earlier that day, and was killed by a .22 rifle shot through the chest. Simpson watched as an experienced trapper skinned it, and she described how the she-wolf was dismantled into an assortment of products. I love how she wrote, “…something tightens in me when I think of her terrible beauty, the lovely sharpness of her teeth, the predatory brilliance of her gaze…” Simpson’s reaction was different than that of the other trappers. Of necessity, they must divorce the wolf of its mystical trappings and see it for what it truly is; an animal. Simpson writes, “He handles the wolf straightforwardly, not as if it were something revered or reviled but simply a dead animal.”

    Sherry Simpson writes beautifully, and just as importantly, with balance. It’s clear that she personally wouldn’t want to trap animals, but she recognizes the rights of others to do so.

    1. Courtney Kisner

      How honest Simpson was about her own contradictions really was refreshing to read! I loved that she was able to explain her stance, but also explain others’, recognizing there will be contradictions in all arguments of this nature. I agree, she really does write beautifully. It was soothing to read despite the heavy topics discussed. I love where you said, “they must divorce the wolf of its mystical trappings and see it for what it truly is,” when discussing the perspective of hunters. I also liked that you mentioned when Simpson said, “the wolf becomes a distorted reflection of the human psyche.” What we see in wolves likely is just a reflection of how we see ourselves.

  4. Benjamin Hayward

    Finishing Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott gives me good feelings, knowing how my approach to writing has been vindicated. There are many techniques I have discovered on my own, I do naturally, that Anne writes about. She gives great insightful advice to writing from start to finish. However, I feel this book is not for me. It is for those new to writing, who have a story to tell, and needs a heads up to the pitfalls, the sudden corners you may come across, catching you by surprise.

    As I was writing my first self-published article on iBooks called Riddle of Style, I geared it towards academia. I had 3 class aids working on their masters to assist me with corrections, editing, and suggestions. I challenged myself as I wrote the first piece. giving myself some rules to follow: Active voice only and limit the use of articles and adverbs. Stephen King likes to say, “The road to hell is paved by adverbs.” To this day, when I go back and read what I wrote, I can’t help but think, “Really? I wrote this? Who writes like this?” Currently it is my most prized piece, and when I write in the active voice, it surprises others. As I read it out loud, I imagine myself as some famous orator from history, on black and white film, inciting the masses to greatness, inspiring a generation. I remember Ms. Hall telling me that I should consider writing future works in the active voice, for it is different in today’s environment, refreshing, and most importantly, unique. It’s hard to state what I am most proud of in the work, dropping a Batman reference or the riddle I came up with in the beginning.

    Anne provides advice to her students about overcoming writers block. She suggest writing a letter to someone, for the sake of writing, to get stuff on paper. Write about everything, but the block. I use a different tactic. I write to Troll, about the block. I know the story in my head, so I explain it to Troll. I explain to Troll my fear about writing about what as written that lead me to the block, why I feel I cannot get past the block, I’m stuck in it, and what is the option to escape the block. I beat Troll up with how the story will continue. I know he doesn’t want to listen, but that’s OK. It’s my personal torture session. Thankfully, Troll never responds. It is for this reason I avoid the writer’s block.

    Some advice I will take from Anne is to get a publisher. When I self-published my other work on iBooks, called Pokémon Go! Power Level Guide, with IBAN numbers and all, translated into 10 languages, figured I may have struck gold, with the popularity of Pokémon Go! Except I didn’t. Anne’s words have never rang more true. There were no riches, even listing it for less than a dollar. If even a fraction of the Pokémon Go players bought a guide, I would have hit pay dirt. This was probably my biggest surprise to self-publishing. Where is the money, the riches? Its in ten languages, in the iBooks store of over 128 countries. Nope. I’m glad to say I broke even on the work, so that’s something. Get a publisher. Just because you think you can do it yourself, doesn’t mean you should. Experts want to get paid. They want to get paid off of your ideas, your words, and your labors. So pay them, and reap the rewards. I would not fear thievery of your idea, your words. Anything can be copy written, even a first rough draft that only you will read.

    1. Kait

      Wow, those are pretty good accomplishments. Like Anne says that there might not be any big pay off or fame, but its so true that you’ll always have your work as a keepsake. It’s good that you have a unique way of dealing with writer’s block, even if you beat Troll up, it means you still get your writing done. I think you have a really good active voice, that riddle was really nice, it made me curious and pulled me in like a hook. Yes, I agree that Annes writing makes me feel better about the writing process I go through which is going through a couple bad first drafts due to mistakes.

  5. Courtney Kisner

    Sherry Simpson in her piece, “Killing Wolves”, looked at all angles of hunting wolves. It was both the perspectives of the hunter and the perspectives of the hunted that came to light. The piece also acknowledged the perspectives of those on a sliding scale between accepting hunting and being disgusted by it. I believe there was a kind of fairness involved when it came to approaching the (sometimes) heavy topic of wolf hunting in “Killing Wolves”.

    Simpson dove into her beliefs as she wrote “Killing Wolves”, as she explained at the end. But while also embracing her values, I think she was able to successfully balance journalism, and also challenge the perspective of the reader simultaneously. I thought it was beautifully written, poetic in its landscape, while also capturing the hard facts for what they were.

    She confronts the contradictory viewpoints that seem to follow hunting. She recognizes a hypocritical nature within herself, one that I could very much relate to. It’s hard for me not to see trapping animals as a heinous act. It’s hard for me to see any kind of beauty in it, but I still respect the people who do it. I, like Simpson, recognize their values as valid. She discusses that some people see wolves as a symbol, making it more difficult for them to understand the viewpoints of wolf hunters. As one of the hunters that she spoke to said, “the way I feel is, there’s no difference between a wolf and a mouse. They’re each a life, and you can’t take any life lightly.” I think this is so important because the value of a life should not be quantified by any means. However, it made me think. There’s also this contradicting part of me that sees the cutthroat nature of wolves, who sometimes kill out of boredom, and this makes it easier for me to understand the desire to hunt them over other animals.

    I love the end because of the way she steps back and sees this all as a perspective we take towards nature–and towards life in general. Some of us would rather observe from a distance, without involvement, possibly only allowing ourselves to see the good, but understanding there is bad mixed with it, we just don’t want to go get our hands dirty. She described this as a kind of unconditional love, and it was such a good analogy for it. Whereas others want to enter it and see it for what it is. These people are maybe ones who yearn for control, yearn to fear less. The sentence earlier on in her piece, “we can hardly bear the burden of being human ourselves,” reflected her point that we choose to see what we want to see, even when we know there are other angles to see it from. It’s almost as if, no matter what, our values will clash or contradict one another at some point. We have to be ready when this happens, because it all really is just a part of the human experience.

  6. Kait

    In these chapters of Bird by Bird made me feel like writing even when I know I’ll make mistakes. That mistakes can be fixed after the first draft and that mistakes are needed to help give your writing unique perspectives to the reader.
    I admired the letter Anne wrote to Sam, which was so descriptive, it’s like an accurate picture painted in your head. Describing details is one of my weak points, so it was nice to read about how she feels as a fan and the games she heard or went to. It’s nice that when your writing a letter, a lot of things just come up out of you that you want to say to whoever your writing to, without thinking too hard about it. I think thats why the man, who escaped foot-washing baptist had so much to say to his kids about growing up. I related to this chapter because I am currently writing letters with a close-friend and I always try to tell him everything thats going on around me in this small village, which feels like giving him a small piece of Teller (the village I live in).
    The technique of writing 300 words on dreams or memories when you have writers block is genius. Whenever I would hit writers block, I would watch a part of my favorite show to give my brain a break, but the technique Anne uses is expressing and productive while it gives you a brain break.
    Her love letters to the people that passed on in her life are very touching, the way she said that Pammy’s story will be a part of her immortality, that even though Pammy passed on, you can still know what her story was and what kind of person she was.. It’s like we can do the same, write about the people in our lives and their memories and stories will live on for other people to read about.
    And her description of having a baby is so accurate that it reminds me of growing up and seeing how my sisters learned to care for a little human by themselves or with their spouse or with some helpful tips from my mom. I love how she includes humor in these descriptions that I am going to show my sisters.
    The chapter Finding Your Voice really spoke out to me, when you write your truths some people aren’t going to agree with you writing about them, like here in the village, you can feel how deep the cycle of holding everything is is important to relative because of the way they grew up. It reminded me of the author Velma Wallis and her stories about growing up and the stories her mother passed down were published and the people (especially the elders) didn’t want her to publish them. I am grateful that Velma Wallis found her voice and kept writing about her stories or I wouldn’t have read about a family that dealt with alcoholism and the setbacks that come with living in a village and learned new ways to deal with the village life like one way is through humor.

  7. Natalee Fleming

    For this reading assignment I read “Killing Wolves” I really liked this story because it is very home based. I was not born and raised here in Alaska, but when I graduate from college I’m hoping to call Fairbanks my home. What I like about this story is that she is doing it from Alaska, she is not some writer from Kansa who decided that they wanted to write about the wolves in Alaska. I have found that people who live in the area they are writing about or have done lots and lots of reach their stories tend to be better than people who just write about what they have heard. I tend to be more judgy when I read stories about Alaska because I’ve heard some weird stories or comments about Alaska which are not true, and people believe them because they don’t know better. I have never hunter before in my life and I’m sure that I ever will go out hunting. I understand the purpose of writing this story, hunting for wolves is a big topic that is being talked about. In the fall, I took a biology class that was solo about Alaska hunting wolves was something that we talked about. The wolves are very important to the ecosystem of Alaska even though you never see them, they help keep the number of caribou low, the caribou eat the lichen. However, people want to hunt the wolves to help keep their population low, and I understand both sides.

    1. Brenden Couch

      Its always good to have a view of the many different sides offered by human nature. I wish she had separated the stories out better but that is my personal preference, I appreciate your comment!

  8. Kelsey

    I thoroughly enjoyed Bird By Bird. I don’t consider myself a “real” writer and certainly don’t plan on making it my career, but I learned so much from Lamott’s book. It was a book on learning how to write, but almost all of it could be applied to living life in general. I feel that she has a lot to offer in her workshops and I bet hearing her teach is awesome. I appreciated her exaplaining libel and how to avoid a lawsuit, because I have always wondered how that works when writing about people who may not necessarily want to be written about. However, it still leaves me with questions. Do you have to get written permission from everyone you write about if you do use their exact person? She suggests that if you don’t want to be sued, to change everything about the person, such as the way they look, the work they do, and the details of their life such as how many siblings they have. However, I wonder if it gets confusing trying to tell a real story, but it ends up becoming fiction because you are changing so much. Lamott talks about using writing as your therapy and how every story you have to tell is interesting. I feel like that is true, because telling your story and your traumas can be so therapeutic, but if you change the people so much, does that take away from it?

    She devotes a section of her book to talking about how publication is probably not going to make you immediately happy or take away all your problems and that this deters some people from writing. This theory can be applied to anything worthwhile in life I think. We all have to keep working and working and sometimes our “big break” happens, whether that be a book being published, or you finally get the dream job you’ve been applying for, or someone finally proposes to you. Any goal that people work towards can become idealized and we tend to think that once we reach that goal that everything will be fixed and life will be perfect. That is usually never the case, and like The Notorious B.I.G. once said, mo’ money mo’ problems. What it’s really about it finding your passion and plugging away at it every day because it is your passion and the thing that you love, and that in itself brings you joy, and whatever else may come with it is just the icing on the cake, but not the whole cake.

    I definitely plan on seeking out some of Lamott’s other books and reading them because I think she has a lot of great things to say and I love authors that can write comically without it being painfully obvious. I feel connected to her because she was so honest about her writing process and the way she has met and dealt with success, which is a nice full circle ending to her book since that was one of the first pieces of advice she gave in the beginning chapters.

    1. Shana Waring

      I completely agree with looking for further material from Lamott. She wrote in a way that makes me reflect on situations even in the last couple of weeks. I may go a few days without reading, but still, find myself looking at situations with a wider perspective like she wrote throughout Bird by Bird. I also found your discussion to resonate with determining what topic I would use for my personal essay. Although I want to appeal to and grab the readers attention, writing what I think a reader wants to read does not make me a great writer. Passion, knowledge, and experience need to guide my writing and continuing to write will help in making me a better writer so I can appeal to my readers. I think for those wanting to use writing as a profession, they would greatly benefit from this book specifically.

  9. Brenden Couch

    The piece by Sherry Simpson initially bothered me for a variety of reasons. Chief among my reasons for distaste in the beginning is her willingness to wear animal attire and disregard the sacrifice that brought it about. It seems to me that she paints trapping as a means of luxury rather than what it mostly is, a means to subsist and survive. I am all too aware that the cost of living, especially here in Alaska. Often the need to stay warm takes food money from the pockets of those who hold stewardship over this land. A full tank of fuel is expensive, a cord of wood is nearly as expensive as heating oil. In Alaska we find other ways to get what we need within our means, which are increasingly limited as real wages fail to rise, as a college education no longer guarantees a good job. While there are always those who do things for sport, the general purpose of trapping is to survive. In the past it was customary for native peoples to trap animals for both meat to eat and fur to warm themselves. It is important that traditions continue to be passed on from one generation to the next.

    As Sherry Simpson starts to write she paints trapping as cruel and evil, although she skirts around calling inherently evil. Please do not misunderstand, an animals feelings matter greatly. However it is often within traditional native customs that the body of the animal and the spirit is treated with deference so that way the spirits will grant a future harvest that is bountiful. I cannot speak for those who hunt for sport, because I do not like them, but I am also strongly aware that as we allow subsistence hunting we will inevitably end up with sport-sters. As I continued to read I noticed that various perspectives were presented. I believe that she wrote in this fashion to emphasize the many different viewpoints that people have, to include the whole spectrum of the human experience. Although I can appreciate her attempts to bridge the various viewpoints I found the jumping around confusing until I noticed what was going on.

    In conclusion, I really have a hard time with bleeding hearts, I understand sympathy, empathy, and compassion. I have a very close bond with my animals. I am also capable of doing what needs to be done to survive. I find survival important enough that if I need to raise animals for food I can do so, but being who I am I will make sure the animal isn’t afraid and that the moment of death is swift and final. I imagine the same is true in hunting though I myself have never been able to go.

  10. Courtney Williamson

    I think that it is pretty interesting that she shared this essay with everyone. Killing wolves is pretty crucial, but she also mentions that she had a wolf pelt in her room. There are two sides of this, Its like hamburgers I guess. How we get our meat is pretty gruesome. Some people are just plain hideous when they become empowered, and use it for evil. Abusing the animals just cause they can, isn’t very moral. We get our meat, and milk from cows and you will see sometimes people will be cruel about it and some will not. There are two sides to everything.

  11. Shana Waring

    I have always found wolves to be very mystical and scary creatures. I can say the fact they travel in packs and are willing to attach like I first witnessed in Beauty and the Beast to contribute to some of the fright I feel when I hear of wolves. After reading the article, I also feel like wolves are mystical and scary because they know a great deal. Like the trapping guide first expressed, wolves are difficult animals to trap and therefore offer that sense of accomplishment even for seasoned trappers in Alaska.

    The article really conveyed a strong point when discussing the comparisons of wolves and humans. The author explains what an insult the comparison is to wolves as humans are reckless and offered more opportunities than many wild animals. She discussed how humans are offered numerous chances to learn a lesson where survival may not be at risk. Wolves, on the other hand, are lucky to escape a single mistake. To make the same mistake a second time would likely mean their lives.

    Even in the comparison of humans and wolves, humans have to assert their power over the animal. Make the difficult and intelligent animal to trap to be a challenge. I did feel like maybe came from a place in Simpson of her ideas of trapping and hunting. I have no doubts there are negligent and reckless humans who are just after the money or the price of hunting an animal. In Alaska, with people in a class to learn better ways of trapping, I feel like this could have been a construed idea of trapping wolves. Just like the idea, the trappers would not likely want Simpson to come along on the trip but they would place a fake smile to appease her. Nothing is to say a sport filled with men would provide a fake smile to make a journalist feel welcome into their group.

    The article did not change my feeling about wolves as wild animals. I’m not a fan of wolves and really would be okay if I never had to hear or see one. We could survive far from one another’s existence. Simpson was outwardly very much in a different mindset. She seemed to want to provide protection to the animal from being hunted. She was either not trying to change the reader’s mind or missed the mark with me.

    I did greatly enjoy Simpson’s hook and narrative style in her writing. The beginning pages of the allowed for vibrant sensory responses to me as a reader. I felt like I was the one walking past the hanging pelt or reaching for the hat in the closet and rubbing against the fur. She also did a nice job in her descriptions of landscapes for each stop along the trapping trail. As someone who has been in many different climates and hiked numerous areas, I felt like I could draw a map of the trail they explored.

  12. Jess Young

    “Out of 365,000 square miles in Alaska, the wolf must step onto a four inch circle.” Sherry Simpson’s Killing Wolves manages to embody an Alaskan tradition while still allowing for Western opinion on wildlife preservation to filter through. As a born and bred Alaskan, her imagery is spot on. When she describes the environment, I am able to picture exactly what she is talking about. She captures the smells, sounds, and feel of Alaskan wilderness. I am not sure that someone who has never experienced it before would be as affected by the visualization she gives, but her writing feels like home to me.
    The subject of trapping wolves has a rich history in Alaska, which Simpson addresses early on. She speaks of the Native Alaskans who would trap for the sake of food and supporting life, to modern day trappers who support themselves and their families on wolf pelts. “It’s a helluva way to make a living, relying on what rich women in Paris and New York want to wear that year.” It’s a healthy reminder to me, that although I find trapping wolves to be unappealing, it is yet another way that Alaskans survive off the land.
    Simpson shows many similarities between humans and wolves as alpha predators. “A wolf kills because it can, for the sheer pleasure of it — like humans.” She paints humans in a light of being intelligent, resourceful, and somewhat cruel… much like the wolf. Her writing gave me a new appreciation for the wolf, perhaps arrogantly, by painting the mind of the hunter and its awareness of the unnatural. I had no idea that wolves were so aware of their surroundings, although in retrospect that should have been obvious.
    I enjoyed Killing Wolves, it was a controversial subject which the author managed to present in a way that both sides of the political views could understand. There was some hidden bias present throughout the work, but I appreciated it for what it was. I tend to approach Alaskan-written works with some hesitancy because I feel like a lot of people use the “Alaska Life” as a gimmick to sell books. Killing Wolves was a pleasant surprise!

    1. Brandon Blum

      I agree with you that there is the inherent bias that the author has to overcome when tackling the subject of trapping wolves, though even though I share a lot of where she is coming from, I wish she could have done a better job. It is a controversial topic, that is for sure, but I did feel like there was a lot of effort put into the detail of describing the more gruesome element of the story than there was put into humanizing the trappers. Through most of it, I felt more sympathetic with the wolf being skinned than the two men performing the act. I’m not saying she was terrible at it, but I definitely thought it was a weak point of her story.

  13. Brandon Blum

    There is a lot that spoke to me in Sherry Simpson’s story that I did not expect to be inside to be quite honest. Her description of how people viewed her, the Anchorage Daily News as an institution, and the implied attitudes of non-trappers all together was not something I was anticipating being enlightened to, but I see it as a real reflection of what conversations actually look like when it comes to subject matter among Alaskans. My family is mostly religious conservative leaning folks that tend to tug the party line along any issue that they have not gone out to find things to support their preconceived notions. I know when I was young, the debate about hunting wolves was casually talked about at family dinners, for it was obvious to my family that anything to help a hunter hunt was logically what litigation ought to look like. The one liberal leaning individual in my family, my only aunt, was a vegetarian among lifetime hunters and chose to pick her battles where she could. With this environment, I was raised to believe that there was no conversation to be had really, that wolves were a nuisance, and that we had to help people control their population by any means necessary.

    As an adult, it is weird to perceive these opinions of not only how trapping and hunting ought to be pursued, but also how those in the lifestyle perceives those outside of their social circle. I find it not too surprising that they meet inquisitive probing with wariness, but it also seems counterproductive to keeping the tradition alive if those who show interests are met with cliquish behavior. I find myself connecting with these people to a degree, as a family of hunters raised me, I understand that respect for the resources given to us is paramount in a good hunter/trapper’s mind. I also find myself sympathizing with Sherry’s softer attitudes towards ending the life of another sentient creature, as any activity that allows for people to take life indiscriminately makes me uncomfortable. It’s complicated, as she is able to demonstrate especially well with her description of Masek, as are most things in life. Though it doesn’t make out trappers out to be monsters by any means, I do find it slightly unsettling how the efficiency of killing can be found behind what is such a relatable description of a young man that I could find in a local bar here in Alaska.

    The other thing that struck me about the story was the way Simpson continually drew attentions to the similarities the trappers and wolves shared. Over and over there were comparisons surrounding the strength, intelligence, and wit of both predator and prey. I had never considered the relationship to be one of many similarities, as it is easy to forget the predatory nature of animals when compared to humanities apex status. But there were also many anthropomorphic elements attributed to the wolves that made the description of one being skinned make my own skin crawl. I think this reaction is evidence to the skill of Simpson’s ability to make relatable two different worlds that find themselves opposed in how they fulfill similar roles.

  14. Keyana

    I agree. It was a real eye opener to the community who has been part of our larger community. There was a lot of time and tactic involved in his art for sure. Simpson did shed a new point of view on an old and worn out topic and it made things more understandable for an outsider. Great review and observation on the lifestyle and cycles wolves go through, its brutal in nature and they believe their presence to not be an imposition. A common idea among the trappers is that wolves
    kill other wolves and they are completely savages.

  15. Meghan Geary

    I found “Killing Wolves” by Sherry Simpson absolutely fascinating. I appreciated her frank, honest approach to her own torn beliefs because I found myself relating to her on so many levels. As a life long Alaskan and avid animal lover, I have often found myself in a position of not knowing what I believe. It’s hard to discount the Alaskan lifestyle of subsistence and trapping and things of that nature because it is hardy and good for the ecosystem, but I also hate the idea of killing any being if it isn’t necessary, and sometimes trapping for fur has felt like it isn’t entirely needed. I thought she highlighted both sides of the issue incredible well, and in a very fair manner. One line that stood out to me as putting the difficulty and art of trapping into perspective was on page 136 when she states, ” Trappers describe the situation like this: Out of 365,000 square miles in Alaska, the wolf must step onto a four inch circle. I start to understand something about wolves and trappers, the intricacy of effort that leads to their encounters.” I had never put much thought into the effort that goes into trapping, so it was fascinating to read this perspective through the eyes of a somewhat skeptical Alaskan. She described the delicate relationship between wolf and human so successfully that I was pulled into her argument of humans being just as much killers like we describe the wolves as being, she had me convinced. Even after finishing the read and moving on, I have found my mind lingering on the ideas she proposed multiple times; maybe that is because I have a keen interest in wildlife biology and management, or it’s a testament to her effective writing style. Perhaps a bit of both. Regardless, her writing was refreshing to read. She made the more gruesome parts about skinning the wolf more bearable and entirely relatable, and played both sides evenly without seeming in-genuine. I enjoyed it very much.

  16. Keyana

    Sheri Simpson’s writing was amazing! As an Alaskan being somewhat familiar with the culture, she really shed light on details and educated the reader on what a day in the life of an Alaskan trapper entailed. The way the trappers described their relationship with the wolves, it really seemed to be all about outwitting each other and staying out of each other’s sight. The high wolf population causes an issue for hunters, because the wolves are killing off the moose and other animals that humans use for food. Some say the wolves kill just to kill, not necessarily for survival. Some people view wolves as spiritual or wilderness symbols. However, others see wolves as an overpopulated and dangerous pest that can be exterminated. The pelts are used as fashion pelts and as practical winter gear for Alaskans. Some trappers say they wish it was like sheep’s wool and it would grow back. Others enjoy the trap because they know wolves are in over abundance. They say they would never kill the last wolf.
    trappers can only make about $300 per wolf pelt. The process is lengthy for them to get a trap set. They use bait. Fresh dead animal will quickly and easily attract the wild and hungry wolves. They use wolf urine to attract wolves to by tricking them into asserting dominance over rival tribes. The rival tribe is probably nowhere, but the trapper just knows the wolf will come from the smell of wolf urine. Some trappers use a wolf carcass. Wolves are known to eat their own kind. Other’s think the wolf is way too smart to fall into that type of trap. The type trapper who sets it up with a wolf carcass believes it will smell a weak member who must be eaten. Wolves will even chew their own paw off to escape from a trap. Trappers modify their traps by dulling the shine and adding extra teeth. They want the trap to be covered just right to catch the wolf. They hope 1 wolf being trapped will send the other wolves running scattered and into the rest of the traps.
    Some say its not about the money. The challenge and the tradition are very important to longtime trappers. The time and energy put into the trapping, bait resources, and skinning the animal take a great amount of skill. The journalist wasn’t exactly pro hunting until she came and observed the custom herself. She was afraid that nobody wanted her there doing a story on their livelihood, but they were upfront and it made more sense to her than before she did the story. The relationship between the wolves and the trappers is strange. Both the trappers and the wolves seem to be very clever and have to stay one step ahead to survive. I found this story to be very realistic and relatable for Alaskans. It wasn’t the typical nature cliché of Alaska that usually plagues the bookshelves.

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