Arts and Entertainment

Going on an Alaskan adventure

Forrest Thomson - Kipp Robertson/ Staff photo
Forrest Thomson
— image credit: Kipp Robertson/ Staff photo

A local author once known as “Crazy Hair” has penned a tale of a young man’s adventure from his Eskimo village to the bustle of city life.

“Naaman’s Quest,” written by Kingston resident Forrest Thomson, is the tale of a journey by a 14-year-old Eskimo from his Yupik Eskimo village along the coast of the Bering Sea, down to the continental United States in 1896.

Thomson, a Kingston resident, wrote the book as a cultural appreciation of life in a small village and the struggles tribal members go through.

While a majority of the sbook’s publicity is focused in Alaska, it can be found at three local book stores: Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge, The Dauntless Bookstore in Port Gamble and Mr. B’s Bookery in Kingston.

Inspiration for the book came from Thomson’s own trip to Alaska when he was 23 years old. After graduating from Washington State University, Thomson got his first teaching job at Hooper Bay School, for students in kindergarten through grade 12.

“That was easily the most profound experience of my life,” Thomson said.

Thomson taught for four years at Hooper Bay on the Bering Seacoast, where he met his wife, Dorothy Thomson. When he was finished teaching he became a fur buyer and traveled between 80 Alaskan communities where he learned a variety of cultural traditions.

“I feel like I have a real affinity with native life,” Thomson said.

The book is based around the people and cultures Thomson encountered during his travels in Alaska.

The trip brings the main character down to the West Coast and through Seattle, where the bulk of Naaman’s journey occurs.

As Naaman learns of life outside his village, his travels take him to the the Kitsap Peninsula and to Suquamish.

Naaman’s life and journey is a representation of the cultural conflicts people undergo as their life moves from village to city, Thomson said. As the main character, Thomson said he sees Naaman as an underdog throughout the story. After leaving behind his quiet village life to to experience the world, he faces challenges that few from his village would attempt and believe the young man is capable of.

“Naaman is almost a Forrest Gump-type character,” Thomson said.

The book took about 10 months to write, but the idea for the book was floating around in Thomson’s head for more than 10 years, he said.

Thomson taught at Quilcene Elementary for 25 years and was not ready to write the book until he retired, he said.

Not only was the story inspired by Eskimo life, the illustrations, too, were the product of the culture in Alaska. Thomson’s wife Dorothy Thomson drew the illustrations for the book, including the front cover — a drawing she sketched of her uncle in Alaska.

Along with the illustrations, Dorothy helped with translations and kept the book accurate to the culture of the Yupik.

“She was my village expert when I was writing the book,” Thomson said.

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