Anyone curious about what drew people like
Christopher McCandless (the subject of Into the Wild)
and John Muir to Alaska will find nuanced answers
in Frontier Romance, Judith Kleinfeld’s thoughtful
study of the iconic American love of the frontier and
its cultural influence. Kleinfeld considers the subject
through three categories: rebellion, redemption, and
rebirth; escape and healing; and utopian community.
Within these categories she explores the power of
narrative to shape lives through concrete, compelling
examples—both heart-warming and horrifying.
Ultimately, Kleinfeld argues that the frontier narrative
enables Americans—born or immigrant—to live
deliberately, to gather courage, and to take risks, face
danger, and seize freedom rather than fear it.
Judith Kleinfeld founded and directed the Northern
Studies Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks,
which examines psychological, social, cultural, and
environmental issues across the circumpolar North.
During her more than forty years in Alaska, she has
published widely on Northern issues.
A tour de force. In a brief and pleasingly written 90 pages, Kleinfeld has not only strengthened Alaska’s role in Northern Studies but re-stimulated questions about what the West means.