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Lake Superior Profiles

People on the Big Lake

John Gagnon

Biography, Michigan, Upper Peninsula

Great Lakes Books Series

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Paperback
Published: March 2012
ISBN: 9780814336281
Pages: 224 Size: 5.5x8.5
Illustrations: 36 black and white images
eBOOK
Published: March 2012
ISBN: 9780814336298
Review

When I was a lad, there used to be a sign in the Keweenaw Peninsula: 'You are now breathing the purest, most vitalizing air on earth.' It's said the college fellows used to nail skunks to the sign. I don't know if that's true, but it's a good yarn. The lake makes for many. As Longfellow wrote in Song of Hiawatha, 'You shall hear a tale of wonder.'

— Mark L. Thompson

Like Lake Superior itself, the communities of people surrounding the "Big Lake" are vast and full of variety, spanning state and international boundaries. In Lake Superior Profiles: People on the Big Lake, author John Gagnon gives readers a sense of the memorable characters who inhabit the area without attempting to take an exhaustive inventory. Instead, Gagnon met people casually and interviewed them—from a tugboat captain to an iron ore boat captain, Native Americans, and fishery biologists. Different though their stories are, all share a steadfast character, an attachment to the moody lake, and a devotion to their work.

Lake Superior Profiles combines biography, history, folklore, religion, and humor in fifteen diverse chapters. In Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Gagnon visits the rivers, bays, small towns, larger cities, and nature preserves that surround Lake Superior to meet the people who make their homes there. Among those he meets are several fisherman, a botanist studying arctic wildflowers on Isle Royale, a former lighthouse keeper on a remote reef on the lake, a voyageur reenactor from Duluth, a woman who harvests wild rice each August in the Bad River Sloughs, and a monk living on the Keweenaw Peninsula. He also writes about three of the lake’s major fish species, a rock formation steeped in lore called the Sleeping Giant, and the current fragile ecology of the Big Lake.

Engaging in style and varied in content, these profiles display Gagnon’s natural curiosity and storytelling acumen in illustrating the many ways the lake shapes the lives of those near it. Residents of the Lake Superior region and readers interested in the area will enjoy Lake Superior Profiles.

John Gagnon has worked as a journalist, carpenter, and publicist. He is also the author of Hard Maple, Hard Work, a collection of profiles of people who work with another of Upper Michigan’s natural resources—its prized hard maple.

When I was a lad, there used to be a sign in the Keweenaw Peninsula: 'You are now breathing the purest, most vitalizing air on earth.' It's said the college fellows used to nail skunks to the sign. I don't know if that's true, but it's a good yarn. The lake makes for many. As Longfellow wrote in Song of Hiawatha, 'You shall hear a tale of wonder.'"

– John Gagnon, from the prologue

Gagnon has written a marvelously delicious saga about the world's largest freshwater lake. It's 'comfort food.' You don't just read Lake Superior Profiles, you chew on his descriptions of the people and places of the region that visitors-and most residents-might see, but never really know."

– Mark L. Thompson, executive director of the Presque Isle County Historical Museum and author of A Sailor’s Logbook (Wayne State University Press, 1999) and Graveyard of the Lakes (Wayne State University Press, 2004)

Covering fishermen and botanists, as well as different fish species and rock formations, this blend of biography, history, folklore, religion, and humor provides a unique insight into the lives of people and places that call this area home.

– HSM Chronicle, HSM Chronicle