A Line of Driftwood: The Ada Blackjack Story

A Line of Driftwood: The Ada Blackjack Story

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Author: Diane Glancy

Publisher: Turtle Point Press (2021)

In September 1921, a young Inupiat woman named Ada Blackjack traveled to Wrangel Island, 200 miles off the Arctic Coast of Siberia, as a cook and seamstress, along with four professional explorers. The expedition did not go as planned. When a rescue ship finally broke through the ice two years later, she was the only survivor. 

Diane Glancy discovered Blackjack’s diary in the Dartmouth archives and created a new narrative based on the historical record and her vision of this woman’s extraordinary life. She tells the story of a woman facing danger, loss, and unimaginable hardship, yet surviving against the odds where four “experts” could not. Beyond the expedition, the story examines Blackjack’s childhood experiences at an Indian residential school, her struggles as a mother and wife, and the faith that enabled her to survive alone on a remote island in the Arctic Sea.

Glancy’s creative telling of this heroic tale is a high mark in her award-winning hybrid investigations of suffering, identity, and Native American history.

“This is not a reconstruction; it is symbiosis as an act of respect and dignity. As Diane Glancy 'ventriloquizes' Ada into a truth of words—written, typed, spoken, thought—she speaks the paradoxical truth of acts of writing as self-witness: 'I am hurting when I am writing.’ Isolation becomes revelation. The spiritual driftwood becomes a testament of sacred connection and a claiming back of voice.”

–John Kinsella

“The shifting of ice. Written letters become elk, an orange is a moon, an owl is a blank page, and the stunning survival in this Arctic landscape redefines the question, 'What is rescue?' Diane Glancy hears the spirits, the words beneath the words. She knows the language of scars as she honors the life of Ada Blackjack in this visionary telling of the moving world.”

–Jan Beatty