Stories Find You, Places Know

Yup'ik Narratives of a Sentient World

Grounded in existing understandings of Yup’ik cosmology and worldview, this work is the first to look at how a Yup’ik community uses stories of place in social life. On the Bering coast of southwest Alaska, Cusack-McVeigh accompanied storytellers during their daily activities. Hearing many narratives repeatedly over a span of years, she came to understand how stories reflected interactions of people and places.

For the Yup’ik people, places are also social actors that react to human actions and emotions. Stories tell how people learn about each other through encounters on the land, and thereby places also learn about people. Places comment on human behavior through the land's responses to specific actions. Stories variously reveal ideas about human associations and relationships between humans and nonhuman beings. Pointing to a systematic correlation between places and narrative elements that has not been previously explored, this volume makes a unique contribution to the literature on place. 

Winner of the Brian McConnell Book Award from the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.

Holly Cusack-McVeigh is a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of anthropology and museum studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 

Praise and Reviews:

“In this rich ethnography on place, Cusack-McVeigh argues that places are themselves social actors in local narratives—stories Yupiit tell that connect people, places, and events; empower tellers; and give new meanings to locations where struggles for control of lives and land are ongoing.”
—Julie Cruikshank, author of Do Glaciers Listen?

“Significant and original in its large corpus of stories. Many of these stories are moving and compelling. They show a range of social, ecological, and cognitive aspects of place-making.”
—Thomas F. Thornton, author of Being and Place among the Tlingit

“Engaging and accessible. This work is a significant contribution to the ethnographic and folklore literature. The author is insightful about the often unstated aspects of Yup’ik communication.”
—Patricia H. Partnow, author of Making History: Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Life on the Alaska Peninsula

“This book contributes to the expanding scholarship on how stories speak to us through a rich and pungent portrayal of life on the land. The volume achieves a well-deserved place in the fields of Anthropology, Folklore, and Native Studies.”
—William Schneider, Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska Fairbanks

“Folklorists and those who study oral narratives will appreciate Cusack-McVeigh’s efforts to capture the context of stories told spontaneously in authentic settings…. Stories Find You is a timely and relevant contribution to scholarship that integrates appropriate indigenous conceptual frameworks and research methodologies with anthropological research.”
Alaska Journal of Anthropology

“The author blends her own experiences in the field with her analysis in engaging ways, and she also provides sensitive descriptions of incidents that she shared with the people of Hooper Bay. Her book is well organized, and it includes vivid and engaging incidents as well as highly readable narratives from her in-depth field research…. The insights in Stories Find You, Places Know deserve further consideration in subsequent studies of placemaking and storytelling.”
Journal of Folklore Research