PORT HARDY—A local writer brought the past back to life during a reading of her award-winning novel at the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre Saturday.
Diane “Honey” Jacobson—who goes by her maiden name, Diane Alfred, outside of publishing—read passages for an audience from her new novel My Life with the Salmon. The book is an autobiographical account of her experience working for the Gwa’ni Hatchery. Jacobson, a ‘Namgis author from Alert Bay, worked at the hatchery off and on from the 1970s to 1999.
The novel is dedicated to Bert Svanvik, Jacobson’s former boss, who passed away in 2007. Her goal in publishing the story was to promote a love and appreciation for the salmon and the ‘Namgis valley, but also to commemorate Bert by setting down events of the past. “It brought Bert back to life in print,” she said Saturday.
She talked briefly about the devastating effect that climate change and colonization have had on local salmon populations, as well as the hatcheries. “I try to stay away from politics,” she warned at the beginning of her reading. “But it’s very hard to keep it out entirely.”
Jacobson has had her share of adventures at the hatchery, from river rafting to a close encounter with a family of elk, and so My Life with the Salmon is packed with action. But there is also heart—Jacobson’s writing style is infused with a warmth and humour, but also a sense of wonder of the natural world around her.
“It’s about learning to respect the river, respect the valley, and respect the water at all times,” she said. She tried to thread an Aesop’s Fables aspect into the story, with each tale offering a life lesson.
My Life with the Salmon is Jacobson’s second novel with Theytus Books, a publishing house based out of Penticton that promotes Indigenous authors, illustrators and artists. Jacobson’s first novel, a memoir called My Life in a Kwagu’l Big House, was picked up as an educational resource by Simon Fraser University, while My Life with the Salmon is the winner of the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Award. Jacobson currently has a third novel underway with Theytus Books.