November 14, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 46

Petersburg author preserves history through story

Local writer Edward May is self-publishing his new book "Sourdough Starter: The Mother Sponge."

Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot
May\'s book is already available on Kindle and hardcopies will be available as a hard copy on within the month. The cover displays photos of the individuals in the book who tell their stories.

The book is a collection of 27 profiles taken from audio interviews May transcribed and condensed for the Anchorage Daily News between 2006 and 2008.

The stories detail the experiences of Alaskans who had lived in the territory before it became a state. May paints the lives of Tlingit fishermen, loggers, trappers and transplants across his pages.

"That's the kind of interview I specialize in," May said. "Trying to get inside of people, inside of their passions."

He writes in his introduction concerning the book's title, "A starter, or "sponge" as the pioneers called it, feeds many families over many years."

And for May, passing down the stories feeds people through generations like the staple sourdough bread pioneers fed themselves with. He even includes a starter recipe in his introduction.

"Alaska's greatest renewable resource is its stories and the people that came here and made lives," May said. "It's a never-ending fascination for me."

But stories about individual lives and experiences aren't the only events readers will learn about. May opens each chapter with a mini history lesson about Alaska and themes from each story.

The story of a Haines woman who came to Alaska from Oregon and worked at the library opens with a history of the Haines library and its similarity to libraries across the state. Ideas and issues such as racial tension, women's suffrage to the scientific principles behind the Northern Lights also line the pages.

The book is available on Kindle and a hard copy will be available on by the end of the month.

May plans on continuing to write and preserve stories of a generation of pioneers he says will soon disappear.

"That's why I started this project and why I continue to do these interviews because I want to capture that before it is gone," May said.

He said he wants to collect more Petersburg interviews as well as stories from up north in Dillingham, Nome, Barrow and Bethel.

May, his wife Melinda and three children homesteaded in Haines where he also worked as a news director for its public radio station before moving to Petersburg in 2010.

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