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Born on Jan. 1, 1927, Tlingit woman Carol Feller Brady decided to share her life experiences in “Through the Storm Towards the Sun.” Brady’s tale was originally written as a letter to her five children as part of her alcohol therapy, but it turned into something more.
Tlingit woman talks about her memoir on growing up in Southeast Alaska 092717 AE 1 Mackenzie Fisher, for the Capital City Weekly Born on Jan. 1, 1927, Tlingit woman Carol Feller Brady decided to share her life experiences in “Through the Storm Towards the Sun.” Brady’s tale was originally written as a letter to her five children as part of her alcohol therapy, but it turned into something more.

Book cover of "Through the Storm Toward the Sun." Courtesy image.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Story last updated at 9/26/2017 - 3:25 pm

Tlingit woman talks about her memoir on growing up in Southeast Alaska

Born on Jan. 1, 1927, Tlingit woman Carol Feller Brady decided to share her life experiences in “Through the Storm Towards the Sun.” Brady’s tale was originally written as a letter to her five children as part of her alcohol therapy, but it turned into something more.

It’s an memoir that is “a history book and a healer,” Brady said. Originally published in 1980 by Scope Publishing in Sausalito California, “Through the Storm Towards the Sun” was written during a time when Brady was entirely alone — something Brady makes known to be very important, as others have tried to dispute her solitude, she said.

“I really have to say that I had no company,” Brady said. “There were comments about my getting help in writing my book… I did it all by myself.”

In 2006, Author House republished “Through the Storm Towards the Sun.”

Her book begins by informing the reader, as directed to her children, that she didn’t write this book for readers to feel pity for her. Preluded by a “heavenly childhood,” her life took a tragic turn.

“I truly believe that the first 10 years of your life are so important. If you have a good quality of living you are going to be strong for the rest of your life,” she said.

Brady grew up in Sitka, and in the early chapters, she writes about living in the Sheldon Jackson School (SJS) cottages, which were homes for the alumni. Brady saw the cottages as a living place for Alaska Natives who wanted to embrace the Western culture flooding their area. Brady speaks on the good times associated with SJS.

“I never thought about racism there. The faculty came from all over the world, I gathered. Some of them had very heavy accents, beautiful, angelic people… We had a lovely area to play there. We didn’t know we were in a historical area,” Brady said.

She continued to “explain the beauty of what (they) were able to do” at SJS. There are many stories of growing up in Sitka that are prevalent in her book.

In 1937 the second stage of what Brady calls her “two part life” unfolded, starting with the death of her father Ray James. James was a hardworking man who died from just that — overworking.

“Dad worked downtown 8-5 and then at 5 he’d take his lunch bucket and go to the locked up cannery. It was locked up for the winter but he had a key to go do carpentry work there until midnight,” Brady said. “He was a beautiful man… when he died our heaven was all broke up.”

After her brother’s Ray and John drowned a few months after her father’s death she realized that her life as “little Alice” (her nickname growing up) was over. From then on, even though her mother was still alive at the time, she considered herself an orphan. The toll on her mother, Lizzie Kadashan, was overwhelming and she couldn’t recover from the loss of her family members. She was in a fatal boating accident not long after her sons’ death. Brady’s struggles continued with her time spent living with her alcoholic sister Flora until she was able to leave to attend school at the Wrangell Institute. Soon after, Brady heard that Flora as well as her nieces and nephews that lived there were killed in a fire.

Brady said the Wrangell Institute was a good experience for her, and turned out to be a “godsend.” She had a bad heart and the physician at the Institute said that if she had continued to live with her sister, where she was in charge of taking care of the household while attending to her duties at school, that she would have died in “two months’ time” Brady related. The Wrangell Institute became her home after graduation for 15 years while she stayed on to work there in the children’s guidance department.

The tragedies that occurred were all kept “deep inside” of Brady, and later dealt with by leaning on alcohol. It wasn’t until Brady began writing “Through the Storm Towards the Sun” that she was able to come to terms with what had transpired throughout her life.

“After I wrote the first three pages I got scared,” Brady said. The fear she felt was from the powerful emotions that were beginning to come to the surface, emotions and thoughts that she hadn’t allowed herself to uncover previously. “I told my daughter Helen I think I was supposed to go through everything I went through…”

The later chapters of “Through the Storm Towards the Sun” speak on how Brady came to the place she is today: her five children, first marriage, death of her husband, marriage to her second husband Brookner (Scotty) Brady, and renewal.

Brady said that she viewed the tragic incidents from her past from a distance. Writing made it feel immediate and personal, which fortified her beliefs in coping through means other than substance abuse.

“(Writing) started to slowly change me, because I was the girl that went through that, not someone else. It wasn’t me that didn’t know, that didn’t care. When I wrote about those things it just helped me unload…”

Brady is now working on her second book with help from the Alaska State Museum which has been recording her. She’s leaning toward calling it “The Winds of War.” Her second book will start with when she met her second husband Scotty and will comment on what influence he’s had on her life. Also, she plans to write about how U.S. military’s presence impacted Southeast.

Brady was presented with the Honor Kempton Service to Humanity Award in 1993. She has presented on her book at the Thunder Mountain High School’s library, the Wrangell High School and on Juneau’s radio station KTOO.

Helen Feller, one of Brady’s daughters, lives in Juneau near her mother. On Brady’s request, Feller attempted to send “Through the Storm and Towards the Sun” to alcohol treatment centers. Both Feller and Brady believe the content to be excellent material for recovering alcoholics, as there are many relevant components to the book. Feller also sent the book to the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which has placed 50 copies in their store, she said.

“She’s very busy for a 90-year-old,” Feller said. “Always wanting to do another project… She’s quite the character.”

“Through the Storm Towards the Sun” can be found online through Amazon as well as an audiotape at the Downtown Library in Juneau.

Mackenzie Fisher is a freelance writer living in Juneau.