In the author’s note, Specht reveals his intention to write Hobbs’s story as accurately as possible, though some liberties are taken. For example, the Native American village is not located on the Forty Mile River but on the Yukon River. Dramatic liberties are also taken, giving the book the form and tone of a novel and creating its appeal. Much dialogue is used, for which actual conversations could not have been recorded. These efforts at fictionalization, however, contribute to the telling of the story of one woman’s struggle to stand up for what she believed in, no matter the cost or risk. Hobbs not only had to give back many of the items that were given to her upon her arrival in Chicken but also had to do without the friendship of someone for whom she cared deeply. She lived with neighbors who constantly spied on her, families that withdrew their children from school or her care, and school board members who threatened her pending job in Eagle, Alaska.
Specht seems sympathetic to this tenacious woman’s fight against prejudice. Young adults sense the need at times to stand up for what they believe in, and this story exemplifies the struggle of one individual to do exactly that. Hobbs, a person of ideas and ideals, represents belief in a cause and the action that is required to succeed in that cause.
The time of the Yukon gold rush is an interesting period for many young adult readers. The Alaskan wilderness differs from the more industrialized lower forty-eight American states. In 1927, the United States was exiting the Roaring Twenties and was about to enter the Great Depression. The Depression had already come to the gold rush regions because the mines had been exhausted and the riches promised to prospectors were no longer existent. Consequently, the Alaskan wilderness saw life...
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Specht’s composition of Tisha came many years after his first meeting with the heroine of this book, as it was not until he became a free-lance writer that he put her story down on paper. This lapse in time might account for some of the liberties taken in the work. Hobbs, who went on to marry Fred Purdy, was more than seventy-five years old when Tisha was published in 1976. Thus, although she had lived the story herself, those events recorded in the book had occurred a half-century beforehand and may have become altered somewhat by her memory.
This simple, true tale of one young woman’s adventure in the unknown has been molded by a creative writer who depicts a historical time and a severe place as an experience to remember. This book will be remembered not as a history text but as an exciting account of the life of one courageous individual. Although Specht suggests in Tisha that a sequel was possible, none was written before Hobbs’s death in 1987.