WASILLA — You can fill a small library with the books that have been written about former Wasilla mayor, Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Some were penned by journalists, others by friends. Some were produced by business colleagues and some by Palin herself. So what sets apart a new book written by her father, Chuck Heath Sr., and her brother, Chuck Heath Jr.?
For starters, it is a more intimate and inside look at Sarah Palin, her family and what shaped her growing up in Alaska. According to Chuck Heath Sr., “it’s the true Sarah Palin as told by others.”
“Basically it tells the true story, not from Chuck and not from me, but other people,” he said. “What they have seen. What they have experienced growing up with her.”
Heath said there are 46 different voices throughout the book. They interviewed coaches, teachers, pastors, preachers, classmates and teammates — “All those people that knew the real Sarah. They supplied the material and we used what they said.”
Originally, Chuck Heath Jr. wanted to write a book about his gold mining and hunting experiences. Chuck Heath Sr. said his son has kept a journal for years, so the idea was to write about his experiences in Alaska. But after thinking about it, they decided to write a book about Sarah.
“He put two and two together and he decided he better include Sarah in there,” Chuck Heath Sr. said of his son’s original idea. “So about a year and a half ago, he really started in earnest on this.”
Chuck Heath Jr. wanted to show people the real Sarah: what formulated her philosophies, what gave her a strong work ethic and her perseverance.
The father said they wanted to interview people who knew her best, and “that is basically what we did. We talked to the people that really knew her.”
Outside of the foreword, Sarah had nothing to do with the book, Heath Sr. said. “It is stuff from our memories. Nothing in the book has to do with interviewing Sarah.”
When they first approached Sarah with the book idea, she said she didn’t care to be involved, he said.
“She said, ‘You guys go for it. Make sure it is factual and truthful, but I want you guys to do it. I don’t want to do it,’” Heath Jr. said. “She gave us the green light, but she didn’t want anything to do with it.”
For the Palin and Heath families, the book serves as kind of a historical road map to where they are now and where they came from. But also as important, Heath Sr. said, is that it be seen as the real story.
“There are a lot of books written about Sarah,” he said. “Some of them are so totally unfactual it is beyond belief.”
Some are also very humorous, he said, referring to one written by a guy from Sports Illustrated called “Sarah Palin and the Wasilla Warriors.”
“In that book, there is so many errors it is beyond belief,” Heath Sr. said. “Nothing that really slams her, but he compares her to Jason Kidd. Sarah was a good basketball player, but she wasn’t a Jason Kidd.”
Heath Sr. said the writer had her playing against teams like East High and Service High in the state finals and he made up names for the other team’s members, and they were all Eskimo names. He said the writer also had Todd winning the Iron Horse Snowmachine Race.
“Some of these things some of these characters have written, Oh my,” the elder Heath said. “You know, if I didn’t know her I’d hate her, too.”
The Heaths say they aren’t out to change anyone’s opinion of their daughter and sister. People have already made up their minds about Sarah, Heath Sr. said.
“We just wanted to tell the true story, and Sarah said, ‘Make sure it is all true, because they are going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb,’” he said. “So we were very careful that everything we put in there was the truth.”
For both Heaths, writing the book was a learning experience, especially for Heath Sr. He said he came away knowing his son a bit better, too.
“When we went on a book tour for three weeks, I got to room with him side by side. I think I got to know him better now than I knew him in high school,” he said. “I really enjoyed that part.”
He also said he really enjoyed writing and relating the parts that talk about the trips the family went on.
“Hunting and fishing trips that helped formulate their work ethics and honesty,” he said. “These trips are where we got to know our kids pretty well.”
The book also brought up some things for Heath Sr. that weren’t so pleasant, but inevitably helped shape how he and wife, Sally, raised their children. Heath Sr. said recalling his childhood was probably the hardest part to write about.
“I bring up quite a bit of my childhood,” Heath Sr. said. “I had a domineering father and he used to beat on me.”
He said by today’s standards, his father would probably be in jail from some of the things he used to do. “I said that is never going to happen to my kids and that is the reason I put it in there.”
The book is available in Alaska at Costco and some Carrs/Safeway stores, but if you want a signed copy, visit Mocha Moose in Wasilla on Saturday. Chuck Heath Sr. and Chuck Heath Jr. will sign copies of the book starting at 10 a.m. And Mocha Moose also will have books available for purchase.
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