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Two Old Women, 20th Anniversary Edition: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival Paperback – November 5, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Velma Wallis is one in a family of thirteen children, all born in the vast fur-trapping country of Fort Yukon, Alaska, and raised with traditional Athabascan values. A writer and avid reader, she lives in Fairbanks.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 20 Anv edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062244981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062244987
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (278 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Velma Wallis' career as a bestselling author may have been destined from the start, but it most likely would have seemed improbable - if not fantastical - to her as a young girl growing up in a remote Alaskan village.

Velma Wallis' personal odyssey began in Fort Yukon, Alaska, a location accessible only by riverboat, airplane, snowmobile or dogsled. Having dropped out of school at the age of 13 in order to care for her siblings in the wake of their father's death, Wallis passed her high school equivalency test - earning her GED - and then surprised friends and relatives by choosing to move into an old trapping cabin 12 miles from Fort Yukon.

For almost a dozen years, she survived on what she gathered from hunting, fishing and trapping - a daring and strikingly independent lifestlye during which she struggled to define her personal identity.

In fact, it seems difficult to separate Velma Wallis from the imagery of hardship and the mere pursuit of survival itself - which is actually the underlying theme of her first and widely successful effort as a writer, Two Old Women.

Inspired by an old Athabaskan legend passed on by Wallis' mother, Two Old Women follows Sa' and Ch'idzigyaak as they struggle to coexist with an unrelenting Nature as well as conquer extreme old age after being abandoned by their own tribe for fear that the two elders would cripple any chance of surviving the harsh winter. Determined to live and so disprove the tribe's belief that they lack social worth, the two women discover strength and self-confidence they never knew they possessed.

In this regard, it seems possible to read Two Old Women as a kind of metaphor for Wallis' own childhood and role as a once emerging - but now accomplished - writer whose legendary tale has sold 1.5 million copies and been translated into 17 languages worldwide.

It should come as remarkable, then, that Two Old Women is widely considered to be a word-of-mouth bestseller - what many have called a "publishing phenomenon" - gaining in popularity as mothers, daughters, teachers and mentors share the native wisdom of Sa' and Ch'idzigyaak amongst themselves.

Composed on an antiquated typewriter, the aspiring author's retelling of the Athabaskan legend seemed infused with magic from the beginning. Even so, the question of whether Wallis' work would actually be put in print was complicated by a lack of financial resources on the part of her publisher Epicenter Press, which was still in its infancy at the time of Wallis' submission.

But in spite of such a formidable challenge, a group of University of Alaska students taught by Lael Morgan - co-founder of Epicenter Press along with Kent Sturgis - started a grass roots effort intended to raise enough money to publish the manuscript. Since that time, Wallis has written two additional books - Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun and also Raising Ourselves.

The now middle-aged author currently divides her time between Fort Yukon and Fairbanks along with her three daughters. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including both the 1993 Western States Book Award and the 1994 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for Two Old Women as well as the 2003 Before Columbus Foundation Award for Raising Ourselves.


Customer Reviews

It is an easy read and kept my interest throughout the book.
Rcfjane
Empowering to women, this is a wonderful story of courage and strength in the face of hardship.
Rhiannon NosTylluan
I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys a short and interesting read.
Ley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Joyce Schwarz on July 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book -- fairly short and a great gift for grandma. It tells how age does give us wisdom. A nice birthday book for anyone over 30. And especially for someone in their 50's and above. Grandma will love it. Why don't we cherish the seniors in our lives? The author Velma Wallis is one of a family of 13 children born in the fur-trapping Fort Yukon Alaska raised in the Athabaskan values. She wrote her book at 33 in a simple yet polished style. Two Old Women have a life of their own. It's a wonderful Alaskan legend that would make a good movie. Fabulous for a reading group or to read aloud to your older children night by night in the winter. Or to your husband in front of the fire....great vacation reading too. Don't miss it-- just caught it by accident-- hope you do too.
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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By W. Jamison VINE VOICE on January 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Two Old Women
by Velma Wallis

This is a wonderful little book with a moral that is timeless and timely. With more elder care being left to institutions families are no longer what they could be. We lose so much when we are no longer in daily contact with our elders so that they can continually pass on the lessons of experience. Without that we are left to go it again for the first time and that often means failure.

It also teaches us not to cease working hard just because we can get away with being lazy when others will do for us. Stop doing something and you lose the ability to do it. A muscle needs to be used to remain muscle. A mind needs to be used to remain a mind.

Thank you Velma for passing on your stories to us.

I would also like to point out to those that did not like this book that half of the equation is what you bring to the book. Our interpretation and appreciation of something results not only from what that is, but from who we are.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By John Keating on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a teacher, I appreciate a book that can be read by any student at any age level. The life lessons taught in this tribal legend are timeless. The story unfolds begging the question of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few or the one(Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn).

The chief of the tribe must make choices - difficult ones at that. The conditions are harsh, the two old women have been using their age as a tool to get the younger tribe members to serve their whims - they even fake some physical maladies to play upon the Peoples' compassion. This, it turns out, backfires on them. The chief makes the decision to banish them from the tribe to serve the needs of the trible. He is concerned that the women will bring the tribe down.

There are times when people in charge have to make decisions that are unpleasant - this is a reality.

The women are left to fend for themselves and the tribe moves on. The issues of family, societal expectations, and betrayal loom heavily in the reader's mind.

It brings about the discussion of modern society's obsession with youth and our disdain for those who are aged. Our nation's homes for the elderly are brimming - this book speaks to that issue. Getting old does not mean useless!

The women call upon lessons learned in youth to survive. They also discover that they need each other in more ways than one.

While the book is an easy read-don't let that mislead you into thinking it is not sophisticated fare. The life-lessons taught are important for everyone to learn and take to heart. I am astounded by this book! It gets my highest recommendation. Buy it-read it-learn from it.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on May 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
Two Old Women by Velma Wallis is a story, not just about the adventures of two eold ones abandoned by the tribe in times of famine, but it is also a story about friendship and fighting against the odds. It is based on a Athabascan Indian Legend which the author is able to bring alive in her own words and, yet at the same time, keep the meaning and flavor of the tale pure and true. The copy I bought, in Icy Strait Point, Alaska, was the Tenth Anniversary Edition. First published in 1993 it now seems to be in every book store I saw while visiting Alaska. The drawings by Jim Grant just add to the enjoyment of reading the story.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Barbara C. Phillips on June 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have just finished this wonderful little book for the third time in as many years. Each time I read it, I am reminded how much our thoughts affect our reality and how much stronger we really are (despite our beliefs). This very positive story tells how two women (ages 75 and 80) are presented with a life threatening challenge, change their belief system out of need, and end up thriving. I think I'll keep this as an annual read - I need all the positive reinforcement I can get!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Newman VINE VOICE on September 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
I come from the viewpoint of a thirtysomething male and this story and it's morals are definitely not lost on me. Given the same situation of abandonment and betrayal and I think I would have had a difficult time pressing on. I was humbled by the humanity of this story.

Velma's prose is clean and wonderfully readable. It is not a terribly long story and often felt like juvenile fiction because of the large type and illustrations, but it is a tale that all ages can and should enjoy.

I am buying several copies for local retirement homes and schools. I am interested to see the reactions from both groups.
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