The Alaska Literary Series
"Old Woman with Berries in Her Lap brought me to tears, anger, and some laughter. This search for cultural identity can be a painful one for it often brings up family secrets that have been suppressed for generations; illuminates historical practices that have robbed the Sámi of their religion, language, and culture; and introduces an inner personal and spiritual struggle. This is a unique voice and a needed one as Sámi Americans continue to search for where they fit in contemporary society."
—Marlene Wisuri, board chair of the Sámi Cultural Center of North America
“Old Woman with Berries in Her Lap has style. It is about finding the inner fire.”
—Diane Glancy, professor emerita, Macalester College
"A welcome addition to a dialogue about place, heritage and the identity of people closely connected to seasons and the cycles of all life, who move between worlds."
Through a single descendant’s voice that speaks to the Sámi diaspora, this collection of poems is a journey through colonialism, transgenerational trauma, and identity. Many have heard of the Sámi reindeer herders brought to Alaska by Sheldon Jackson in the 1800s, but not much is known about the Sámi diaspora experiences in the state and beyond. The poems in Old Woman with Berries in Her Lap use the North Sámi language as well as graphics and various types of poetry to tell these stories of migration and diaspora.
Vivian Faith Prescott’s use of language is both a celebration of the richness of the Sámi languages and a mourning of the loss of language that occurs when a population is displaced and forced to exist in a totally foreign language space. According to Sámi linguist, professor, and politician Ole Henrik Magga, the Sámi languages have “very easily . . . one thousand lexemes with connections to snow, ice, freezing, and melting.” These lexemes frame many of Prescott’s poems, introducing ideas and feelings around the loss of language and culture.
A compelling insight into the Sámi culture from a contemporary poet’s eye, Old Woman with Berries in Her Lap juxtaposes past and present in an act of reclamation.
49 Writers, Reading and Conversation Series
Free virtual event: April 21 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm