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Thursday, June 7, 2018

One of Life's Treasures

“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

Born on this date in 1954, Erdrich is one of our most significant Native American writers, winner of the National Book Award for The Round House, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for The Plague of Doves, and author of the beautiful and heart-wrenching Love Medicine. In 2015 Erdrich was honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. 

It has been my good fortune to meet her and be part of literary discussions with her on several occasions. Her thoughtful and “calming” conversations about writing and character development always struck me as seeming to come from a Native Elder, even in the years when she was still in her 20s and 30s. 

She and her sisters are often presenters of their works at writers’ workshops and reading sessions, well known in both the writing and Native communities.  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, Louise operates Minneapolis bookshop Birchbark Books, focusing primarily on Native American literature and support for the Native community.

As we approach Father’s Day, Erdrich shares this comment about her father’s influence on her writing.  “My father is my biggest literary influence. Recently, I've been looking through his letters. He was in the National Guard when I was a child, and whenever he left, he would write to me. He wrote letters to me all through college, and we still correspond. His letters, and my mother's, are one of my life's treasures.”

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