Thursday, May 20, 2010

Memoirs & Coffee Book Discussion Group to Meet

The next meeting of Bernardsville Library’s book discussion group, Memoirs and Coffee, will be held at 10:30 am on Tuesday, May 25 in the library’s Community Room. Pat Kennedy-Grant, Readers’ Services Coordinator for the library, will lead the discussion of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People (2009) by William Iġġiaġruk Hensley. [The author will not be present.]

In the book, Hensley offers readers a rare chance to immerse themselves in a firsthand account of growing up Native Alaskan--in a sod house with no electricity, running water, a bed of his own, or medical or dental care. Although he was sent by missionaries to the Lower Forty-Eight to pursue an education and eventually attended George Washington University, he later spent years lobbying on behalf of the Alaska Native land claims movement. Success came in 1971 when the United States government set aside 44 million acres and nearly $1 billion for use by Alaska’s native peoples.

Hensley was a founder of the Northwest Alaska Native Association and spent twenty years working for its successor, the Iñuit-owned NANA Regional Corporation. He also helped establish the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1966 and served as its director, executive director, president, and co-chair. He spent ten years in the Alaska state legislature as a representative and senator, and recently retired from his position in Washington, D.C., as manager of federal government relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Hensley and his wife, Abigale, live in Anchorage, where—now an Iñupiat elder—he is the chair of the First Alaskans Institute.

There is no charge to attend the book discussion, and no sign-up is needed. For further information, call the library at 908-766-0118.

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