My One Square Inch of Alaska: A Novel

By Sharon Short
Publisher:Plume, (1/29/2013)

Average Rating:
5.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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This coming-of-age 'book club' novel is about a pair of siblings in a gritty 1953 paper mill town in Ohio, yearning to break free of the strictures of their family, their times, and their town. When Donna's little brother Will decides that he wants to earn a deed to one square inch of the Alaskan Territory through a cereal company and TV show promotion, Donna at first finds his quest childish. But when he becomes ill, she decides to help him fulfill his quest... and his dream to actually visit his land. In so doing, she learns to reconnect with her own dreams and to understand how the unfulfilled dreams of those around her impacted her family's life and tragic past. This is a novel of the heart, about the power of dreams, and how believing in ours--and helping others achieve theirs--can set us free.

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beckcomm's thoughts on "My One Square Inch of Alaska: A Novel"
updated on:8/2/2013

Don't be fooled by the description: My One Square Inch of Alaska was an engaging read for adults; this isn't a YA book. You might pick it up not knowing what to expect, since the protagonists are a couple of kids. But the story at heart -- and this book has a lot of heart -- is how far will you go to help someone fulfill a dream. The book is about family, about love, about loss. And, yes, it's also about dogs. How can you resist? In a way, it's comparable to David Baldacci's One Summer, but I think Short's One Square Inch of Alaska is better.


"My One Square Inch of Alaska: A Novel"
By Sharon Short

Average Rating:
5.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)

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By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
Have a good question? If your a clubie add one now.

Television appearance (WDTN, "Living Dayton" Show)

Ohio State University's Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, "Writer's Talk

Radio interview (NPR station, 91.3 FM, WYSO)

Podcast interview with Bill Thompson's "Eye on Books"

Guest post on John Scalzi's Whatever blog about the "big idea" behind ALASKA

Interview on Candace's Book Blog

Interview on


"Not only will young adults enjoy this heartwarming, family-oriented novel, but author Sharon Short will take baby boomers back to the 1950s, reminding them of their own coming-of-age experiences. I recommend this book to the individual reader, as well as to a book club looking to encourage thoughtful discussion..." 
— Saturday Evening Post

"A cast of colorful but believable characters bring freshness and vitality to this bittersweet coming-of-age story. Book clubs and readers of all ages, from teens to their grandmothers, will identify with the protagonists’ quest to be true to themselves."
 —Library Journal

"...wonderfully captures the feel of small-town 1950s, a young woman’s yearning for freedom, and her struggle to deal with how small, seemingly innocuous choices have life-changing consequences."
—Publishers Weekly  

"Full of heart, My One Square Inch of Alaska evokes a specific slice of 1950s Americana, a rural town that appears bucolic but simmers with McCarthyism and labor strife. In Donna, Short presents a heroine forced into a youthful maturity that doesn't rob her of optimism, loyalty and amazing good sense."
—Shelf Awareness

"...a quest story that resonates for men as well as women in a heartwarming and compassionate way."
—Historical Novel Review

"I finished the book with tears in my eyes, ready to recommend it to friends and students alike..  An affecting read, appropriate for even the youngest high school audiences."
 —School Library Journal

"The book weaves many different plots together to ultimately form a love letter to small town in an industrial 1950’s America. Short’s writing is rich with detailed descriptions... The plot is multi-faceted, which could come across as gimmicky in the hands of a less skilled writer, yet Short includes a little something for everyone. Readers will find themselves rooting for Donna and her family right from the start."
--The Ohioana Quarterly, Winter/Spring 2013 issue

"A lovely uplifting read – you’ll love it."
 —Essentials Magazine 

"This quixotic journey to the tundra becomes a quest to reveal what really matters in our lives. Sharon Short has written a tale that will pluck on your heartstrings and loosen up your tear ducts."
—Vick Mickunas, Book Nook Column, Dayton Daily News 

" endearing story of a teenage girl who is balancing her dreams with the crushing reality of family responsibilities. Donna is a compelling character with whom readers can easily identify."
—Romantic Times Book Reviews

"...The truth and authenticity of Donna's memories of the pivotal year of her life simply bowled me over. That's not to say there isn't poetry in My One Square Inch of Alaska but that the novel is more down to earth, more personal than that... Be prepared because once you start listening to what Donna has to say, you'll be glued to your seat until she's finished her tale."
--Beth Fish Reads

"An ordinary tale told with extraordinary skill, My One Square Inch of Alaska is about the special qualities of a brother-sister relationship. It’s also about the hope that must endure no matter what devastating realities occur...this is a novel to be cherished by all readers who love any genre!"
—Crystal Book Reviews

"This touching coming of age story will capture and hold your attention from start to finish. The finely nuanced characters and setting allow readers to get a feel of a time when McCarthyism and labor unions were the hot topics... shows the importance of living life and realizing ones dreams even in the face of obstacles. This is a delightful tale to curl up with as it celebrates living life to the fullest."
—Monsters and Critics

"It's not that often I read a book that can evoke so much emotion in me... Beautiful story. Five stars."
—Book Babe

"My emotions ran wild while reading this book. Laughing, crying and panicking too at a few harrowing incidents. Sharon Short takes us on an incredible journey with Donna and Will. Readers from young adults to senior citizens will enjoy this tender story."

"This book picked me up in a red convertible with the top down and set me down right back in Ohio in the 1950′s... It was truly hard to say goodbye to Donna and her family and the cast of characters (in all senses of the word) in My One Square Inch of Alaska.  This book is a beautiful piece of Americana, thought provoking, and a worthwhile read."
 —A Traveler's Library

"One of the most beautifully written, most moving books I have ever read. A view into the beauty and grace of an extraordinary family. This book is a gift to all who read it."
—Cayocosta72--Book Reviews

"I definitely recommend this readers of YA, historical fiction, and women's fiction... has something for everyone." 
 —Candace's Book Blog 

 "This book was so much more than I expected it to be... about grief and friendship, family, dreams and first loves... it will grab at your heart..."
—Eddy-New Rockford (North Dakota) Library Blog

"Recommended for older teen and adult readers. Special interest to readers looking for a sensitive coming of age story and anyone who ever dreamed of running away to the frontier."
 —Born Librarian Blog

"...a sweet story with a plucky, brave trio at its heart."
 --Cleveland Plain Dealer 

"A compelling, entertaining read My One Square Inch of Alaska is a story defining what it means to have hope, experience love and endure loss. This is an inspirational read that is suitable for all age groups. Ms. Short will take readers on a journey into the Alaskan Wilderness while teaching her readers what it means to survive life's greatest obstacles with an open heart..."
--Night Owl Reviews

"It’s entirely to the credit of this author that [the] tropes of gentle, small town adolescence angst have a fully dimensional, living breathing champion in the character of Donna."
--Heavy Feather Review

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Sharon Short is the author of the novel My One Square Inch of Alaska (Penguin Plume, 2013) in which a pair of siblings escape the strictures of the 1950s industrial Ohio town on the adventure of a lifetime. Opening chapters of this novel earned Sharon a 2012 Ohio Arts Council individual artist's grant and a 2011 Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts & Cultural District Literary Artist Fellowship. Sharon is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News, directs the renowned Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and is an adjunct instructor of creative writing and composition at Antioch University Midwest. Additionally, Sharon's book Sanity Check: A Collection of Columns includes 100 reader-favorites of her weekly humor and lifestyle column that ran in the Dayton Daily News from 2002-2012. Sharon has also published two mystery series (Josie Toadfern and Patricia Delaney) as well as short stories and essays.  Sharon holds a B.A. in English from Wright State University and an M.A. in English from Bowling Green State University. She lives in Ohio with her husband and is the mother of two adult daughters.

11. They say every book written is the author telling a personal philosophy. What personal philosophy are you trying to get across?

The importance of embracing dreams, meaning a vision or meaning to pursue in life; not just pursuing or own individual dreams, but helping others with their dreams. Some of the characters also deny themselves the joy of pursuing their dreams, or choose poorly (based on status or others' expectations) rather than based on their own hearts' calling, so I portray that as well. ... Click here to read more of the interview.

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