Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"My One Square Inch of Alaska"

Sharon Short is the author of the novel My One Square Inch of Alaska, in which a pair of siblings escape the strictures of the 1950s industrial Ohio town on the adventure of a lifetime. Opening chapters of this novel earned Short a 2012 Ohio Arts Council individual artist's grant and a 2011 Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts & Cultural District Literary Artist Fellowship. Short is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News, directs the renowned Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and is an adjunct instructor of creative writing and composition at Antioch University Midwest.

Short applied the Page 69 Test to My One Square Inch of Alaska, and reported the following:
By page 69 of My One Square Inch of Alaska, we’re in chapter 8 of Donna Lane’s story. Donna is a 17-year-old girl, coming-of-age in 1953 Ohio, and bears the burdens of filling the mama role for her younger brother (their actual mama disappeared shortly after he was born), trying to keep the household running in spite of their dad’s self-pitying attitude and alcoholism, and seeking, against all odds, an opportunity to follow her own dreams and escape the strictures of their small town. By now readers know that Will, Donna’s little brother, longs to get a deed to one square inch of the Alaska Territory through a cereal box promotion. His seemingly small dream for a trivial spot of land represents the need all of us have to find and follow a dream; Will longs to go to Alaska, while Donna’s inner journey is accepting the value of her own dreams.

But not long before page 69, Donna has met Jimmy—a young man who, it seems, could give her an “easy” way out of the life she longs to escape. On page 69, he’s taking her back to their house. Donna narrates…
The closer we got to 230 Elmwood Street, the more my heart thudded. It was dark, so Jimmy wouldn’t really be able to see how ramshackle our house looked compared with everyone else’s. But it was also late, much later than I usually got home on a Friday night at Dot’s Corner CafĂ©.

I prayed, Please… let the porch light be off, the living room dark, just a glow coming from Will’s room, Will reading his comic books under the bedspread

But Dad’s car was in the driveway. The porch light was on. The living room was lit up. Will’s bedroom window was dark. And parked by the curb was a ramshackle truck with faded lettering on the back: Stedman’s Scrapyard…
Given previous events in the story, Donna knows that that truck means trouble—real trouble—for her and for Will. She also knows she could rely on Jimmy to get her out of that trouble.

But Donna makes a decision; when Jimmy offers to come in with her, she rebuffs him. “’Not tonight, Jimmy,’ I said firmly, and slammed the driver’s door shut…”

Donna and Jimmy’s relationship isn’t over, not by any stretch, but in that moment, Donna establishes her character, and the inner motivation and strength for the much bigger decisions she must make later for herself and for Will.
Learn more about the book and author at Sharon Short's website, and follow her on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue