Form and Content
In Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness, Robert Specht relates the novel-like, detailed account of the life of Anne Hobbs, a young, idealistic woman who took on the wilds and uncertainties of a wilderness settlement unlike anything she had ever experienced. The text is divided into chapters, but they are only minute breaks in the events of the year that Hobbs spent in Chicken, Alaska. The book begins with an introduction by Hobbs, as she sets the stage for the adventures and conflicts that she experienced during her stay at the local school. A final note also appears, in which she explains what happened to the people described in the book. These notes from the subject herself help to link the extraordinary events of this story with the person who actually lived them.
Specht describes in detail the book’s location, with its tiny cabins, rolling hills, and relentless winters, and the people who were determined to live in such harsh conditions.
The feelings of the people of Chicken were initially caring toward Hobbs. They provided the necessities with which to start the school and to set up Hobbs’s own quarters. Those initial feelings soon changed, however, when the new teacher befriended a half-breed Eskimo man and allowed Native American children to attend the school. The “cheechako,” or greenhorn, had ideas that were different from those that they held in esteem. The once-friendly people soon took back the items given freely to the new teacher. The way in which Hobbs handled the dilemmas that followed shows what determination can accomplish, in spite of the opinions of others. Specht pays particular attention to this young woman’s willingness to risk her own life and career for the children and the man she had come to love so deeply.