Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Review: Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down

Kaylene Johnson, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down (Epicenter Press, 2008).

Many who have been enlivened to the 2008 presidential race by Governor Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's running mate want to know more about this fresh face that has the left in paroxysms of ad hoc outrage. I wanted to know more, too, especially since she hails from my home state and grew up (in Wasilla) about thirty miles from where I did (in Anchorage). This book is an enjoyable, friendly, and compelling story of the rise of an Alaskan women to the Governor's mansion. It was written before Gov. Palin became the Vice Presidential nominee. Apparently, it is being republished by a major publisher. This edition is by a small publisher.

Sarah is not an expose or an in-depth assessment of Gov. Palin's personal life or politics. You will not find any psychoanalysis, cultural critique, or political theorizing. It is a homey biography. The broad outlines are of a truly Alaskan (tough, independent) women whose determination and principles led her into political leadership and to challenge some of the major political players in Alaska.

Readers will become more informed about the Alaskan way of life, which is quite alien to many in "the lower forty-eight," as we say. Alaskans love the outdoors, its scenery and wildlife. They often hunt, fish, climb, and sky. It is an oil-rich state with a significant population of native Alaskans from various tribes. (Gov. Palin is married to a man who is half native Alaskan.) Those who write off Gov. Palin as "the new governor of a sparsely populated state" (the Democrats' talking point) will find that governing Alaskans is anything but easy. The state brings its own unique challenges and requires real savvy from its leaders.

I'm sure several books will be written about Sarah Palin in the months and years to come--and from every possible angle. She is a compelling figure and may be in the political theater (I hope) for years to come. This book, though, will take its place as a matter-of-fact chronicle of an unlikely ascent to public service.

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