Nonfiction Book Award Status: GOLD
At the age of twenty-three, Deanne Burch accompanied her husband, Ernest “Tiger” Burch to the Inuit village of Kivalina, Alaska, a barrier island 23 miles above the Arctic Circle. Tiger was conducting a participant study of the natives, whereas Deanne was a city girl – ethnocentric, naïve, and completely unprepared for the journey she was about to embark on.
In Kivalina, she lived on the edge of two worlds – the one she left behind and the one where she reluctantly participated in all aspects of the women’s lives. Skinning seals, cleaning and drying fish, cutting beluga and caribou to store became her way of life. Plumbing, running water and electricity were not available. Loneliness was a constant companion, although she tried to be accepted by the Inuit women who were suspicious of all white women. Gradually Deanne adapted to living in a culture she knew nothing about.
The midnight sun was followed by relentless darkness and brutal weather. With this came a journey into the unknown. First was a fateful camping trip where they nearly lost their lives, followed six days later by a fire in their house, an event that left Tiger badly burned. During the three months Tiger spent in the hospital, his only wish was to return to Kivalina and finish what he had started.
Despite horrific burns on his face and hands and seared lungs from which he never recuperated, Tiger and Deanne returned to the village to complete the study. Instead of believing in fairy tales and happy endings, Deanne became a woman of strength ready to face the next challenge. Over fifty years later she remembers the young girl who left on an unknown journey. A journey that will live in her heart forever.
Deanne Burch was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, eventually attending the University of Toronto and obtaining both a B.A. in liberal arts as well as a B.A. in social work. She moved with her husband Tiger (Ernest Burch Jr.) in 1964 to a primitive village eighty miles above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. After 1965, she and Tiger lived in several different places including Winnipeg, Manitoba and Kotzebue, Alaska, before settling in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where they lived until his death.
Deanne now calls Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, her home, and has three adult children and seven grandchildren who live in different parts of the country.