My second review for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick, shortlist, is for Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth
Adam Weymouth is interested in the relationship between humans and the world around them. It has led him to write on issues of climate change and environmentalism, and most recently, to travel the Yukon River and tell the stories of the people living on its banks. He lives on a 100-year-old Dutch barge on the River Lea in London. He has written for a wide variety of outlets including the Guardian, the Atlantic and the New Internationalist. Kings of the Yukon is his first book.
There are very few areas left in the world that haven’t had some interference from mankind, but one of the true wilderness areas left is in Alaska. It is through this part of Canada and America that the Yukon River snakes its way to the coast and it is this 2000 mile river that Adam Weymouth is intending to canoe along. Even this remote wilderness is showing the signs of climate change and the results of our ruining the planet.
Weymouth is also there to track the King salmon, or chinook as they are known in Canada, as they head upstream from the Bearing Sea to carry out their last act before dying; spawning. They have been away in the Pacific and no one knows exactly where they go, or indeed how they find their way back to the same river and the exact pool where they were spawned themselves. When they have committed this last act, they die. The return of the salmon brought food for the various predators and economic activity along the river for the people that choose to live in this part of the world. However the thousands and thousands of salmon that used to almost clog the river up in their desire to reproduce are no longer there, changes wrought by us and climate change hade decimated the populations.
His account of his four-month journey was in reality split over two years as the river was impossible to canoe down during the winter. That doesn’t lessen his desire to find the people with the stories to tell, and what stories they are. This part of the world attracts those that wanted to drop out of normal society. He meets the indigenous people too who have relied on the king salmon as an intrinsic part of their culture for thousands of years and who until recently have only lightly touched the earth. Weymouth takes time to talk to those he meets, tease out the stories and understand the shocking effects we have been causing on this otherwise unspoilt wilderness and the way that people who have depended on this natural resource are trying to change to reverse some of the changes. For a debut travel writer, he is pretty accomplished. This is a really enjoyable travel book with a sharp focus and I am looking forward to reading what he does next.
There are lots of things happening online concerning the award if you want to follow it.
The website is here: http://www.youngwriteraward.com
The Young Writers Twitter Account is here: https://twitter.com/YoungWriterYear
You can find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/YoungWriterAward/
Or follow the hashtag:
My fellow shadow panel members are also all online:
Amanda Chatterton – Bookish Chat – https://bookishchat.wordpress.com
Susan Osborne – A Life In Books – https://alifeinbooks.co.uk/
Lucy Pearson – The Lit Edit – https://thelitedit.com
Lizzi Risch – These Little Words https://theselittlewords.com/about/
Or follow the hashtag: #youngwriterawardshadow