Short Fuse Podcast #59: Line of Driftwood, the Ada Blackjack Story

By Elizabeth Howard



Episode Summary

In September 1921 a young Iñupiat 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, and when a rescue ship arrived in 1923, Ada Blackjack was the only survivor. Diane Glancy discovered Blackjack’s diary in the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College and was inspired to write  A Line of Driftwood: The Ada Blackjack Story (Turtle Point Press), a poetic narrative based on her story.

Glancy reads from Ada’s diary, and her own poetry, as she and Elizabeth Howard engage in a conversation about how Ada Blackjack survived.

Episode Notes

Diane Glancy is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and professor emeritus at Macalester College. Her works have won the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, among other awards. In 2018, Publishers Weekly named her book Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears one of the 10 essential Native American novels.

Turtle Point Press introduces readers to outstanding literature by classic and contemporary writers from around the globe. We promote the work of emerging and neglected authors alongside those who are better known. The mix creates a publishing program that is both iconoclastic and challenging, revealing lives not usually seen in books that are playful, poignant, and poetic. Our writers work with some of the best editors in publishing and are treated to exquisitely designed and produced books. We are especially dedicated to supporting women, the LGBTQ community, and writers whose first language is not English.

Photo from the Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College.

This Short Fuse Podcast episode was excerpted from a virtual Zoom conversation streamed through the Portsmouth Athenæum on November 9, 2022.

The Portsmouth Athenæum is a library, gallery, and museum founded in 1817 and located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Membership libraries were first created in the 18th century. While there were once hundreds of membership libraries across America, there are now fewer than twenty still operating. Today, the Portsmouth Athenæum maintains a library of over 40,000 volumes and an archive of manuscripts, photographs, objects, and ephemera relating to local history. It also sponsors exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and other educational and cultural programs.

The Short Fuse Podcast is hosted and produced by Elizabeth Howard. Learn more at Elizabeth Howard.

The Arts Fuse was established in June 2007 as a curated, independent online arts magazine dedicated to publishing in-depth criticism, along with high quality previews, interviews, and commentaries. The publication’s over 60 freelance critics (many of them with decades of experience) cover dance, film, food, literature, music, television, theater, video games, and visual arts. Our core belief: that there is a robust readership for arts coverage that believes that culture matters.

Alex Waters is the technical producer, audio editor, and engineer for the Short Fuse Podcast. He is a music producer and a student at Berklee College of Music. He has written and produced music and edited for podcasts including The Faith and Chai Podcast and Con Confianza. He writes, produces and records music for independent artists, including The Living. He lives in Brooklyn and can be reached at with inquiries.

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