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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Finding (and writing) your place

“Here I am, where I ought to be. A writer must have a place where he or she feels this, a place to love and be irritated with.” – Louise Erdrich

Widely acclaimed as one of our most significant Native American writers, Erdrich has won numerous awards for her work, including the National Book Award for The Round House in 2012.  In 2009 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for The Plague of Doves.   Often inter-related, Erdrich’s novels create multiple narratives in the same fictional area, combining the tapestry of local history with current themes and modern consciousness.

It was my good fortune to both meet her and be part of literary discussions with her and her then-husband Michael Dorris on several occasions during a year that she lived in Northfield, Minn., where my wife and I also lived at the time.  It was during that time that she was completing her debut novel Love Medicine, which also won a number of awards.  Her thoughtful and “calming” conversations about writing and character development always struck me as seeming to come from someone far beyond her years (at the time she was only about 30).

In subsequent years while I was working in Minneapolis and she was continuing her writing there, both she and her sisters were active presenters of their works at writers’ workshops and reading sessions at which I also was invited.  (Her sister Heidi – who writes as Heid – is a gifted poet, and sister Lise is a children’s book author and writer of literary essays.) 

In addition to her ongoing writing ventures, Louise operates a well-known neighborhood bookstore in Minneapolis called Birchbark Books, focusing primarily on Native American literature and support for the Native community in the Twin Cities.

Born on this date in 1954, Louise, who is half Ojibway, was born as Karen Louise in Little Falls, Minn. (also the birthplace of Charles Lindbergh).  This coming September she will be honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.  Happy Birthday Louise.

 Louise Erdrich

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