Author Spotlight: Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich was born in Little Falls, Minnesota in 1954. As the daughter of a Chippewa Indian mother and a German-American father, Erdrich explores Native-American themes in her works, with major characters representing both sides of her heritage. In an award-winning series of related novels and short stories, Erdrich has visited and re-visited the North Dakota lands where her ancestors met and mingled, representing Chippewa experience in the Anglo-American literary tradition

Here’s a look at Erdrich’s extensive body of work:

Future Home of the Living God

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

The Round House

One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

Love Medicine

Set on and around a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation, Love Medicine—the first novel by bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich—is the epic story about the intertwined fates of two families: the Kashpaws and the Lamartines.

With astonishing virtuosity, each chapter draws on a range of voices to limn its tales. Black humor mingles with magic, injustice bleeds into betrayal, and through it all, bonds of love and family marry the elements into a tightly woven whole that pulses with the drama of life.

Filled with humor, magic, injustice and betrayal, Erdrich blends family love and loyalty in a stunning work of dramatic fiction

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved Native American tribe, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. Now, nearing the end of his life, Father Damien dreads the discovery of his physical identity, for he is a woman who has lived as a man. To further complicate his quiet existence, a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Leopolda’s piety, but these facts are bound up in his own secret. He is faced with the most difficult decision: Should he tell all and risk everything . . . or manufacture a protective history for Leopolda, though he believes her wonder-working is motivated solely by evil?

LaRose

North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.

The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.

LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a coconspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.

But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.

The Birchbark House

Omakayas and her family live on the land her people call the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. Although the ”chimookoman,” white people, encroach more and more on their land, life continues much as it always has: every summer they build a new birchbark house; every fall they go to ricing camp to harvest and feast; they move to the cedar log house before the first snows arrive; and they celebrate the end of the long, cold winters at maple-sugaring camp. In between, Omakayas fights with her annoying little brother, Pinch; plays with the adorable baby, Neewo; and tries to be grown-up like her big sister, Angeline. But the satisfying rhythms of their life are shattered when a visitor comes to their lodge on winter night, bringing with him an invisible enemy that will change things forever — but that will eventually lead Omakayas to discover her calling.

The Plague of Doves

The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina’s grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.

Track

Set in North Dakota at a time in the past century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance—yet their pride and humor prohibit surrender.

The reader will experience shock and pleasure in encountering characters that are compelling and rich in their vigor, clarity, and indomitable vitality.

The Master Butchers Singing Club by [Erdrich, Louise]

The Master Butcher’s Singing Club

Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher’s precious knife set, Fidelis sets out for America. In Argus, North Dakota, he builds a business, a home for his family—which includes Eva and four sons—and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. When the Old World meets the New—in the person of Delphine Watzka—the great adventure of Fidelis’s life begins. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted. She meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine’s life, and the trajectory of this brilliant novel.

The Red Convertible

From New York Times bestselling author Louise Erdrich, fresh off her acclaimed Pulitzer-Prize finalist The Plague of Doves, comes The Red Convertible, a stunning collection of short stories selected by the author herself from over three decades of work. A veritable masterclass in the art of short fiction, The Red Convertible features 31 previously published stories and 5 never-before-published pieces. Presented in one collection for the first time, the stories of The Red Convertible cement Louise Erdich’s position in the pantheon of consummate, innovative writers of the American short story alongside such luminaries as Flannery O’Connor and Charles Baxter.

The Beet Queen

On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. After being orphaned in a most peculiar way, Mary seeks refuge in the butcher shop of their aunt and her husband, while Karl gets back on the train. So begins an exhilarating forty-year saga brimming with colorful, unforgettable characters: ordinary Mary, who will cause a miracle; seductive Karl, who lacks his sister’s gift for survival; Sita, their lovely but disturbed cousin; and the half-Native American Celestine James, who will become Mary’s best friend. Theirs is a story grounded in the tenacity of relationships, the extraordinary magic of natural events, and the unending mystery of the human condition.

Antelope Woman: A Novel by [Erdrich, Louise]

Antelope Woman

When Klaus Shawano abducts Sweetheart Calico, the seductive Indian woman who has stolen his heart, and takes her far from her native Montana plains to his own Minneapolis home, he cannot begin to imagine the eventual ramifications his brazen act will entail. Shawano’s mysterious Antelope Woman has utterly mesmerized him—and soon proves to be a bewitching agent of chaos whose effect on others is disturbing and irresistible, as she alters the shape of things around her and the shape of things to come.

The Roy and Shawano families have been inextricably intertwined for generations and, unbeknownst to them, the mysterious Antelope Woman is a part of their fierce and haunting history. Antelope Womaningeniously illuminates how that history affects the contemporary descendants of these families who are the products of two cultures, Ojibwe and white, which sit in uneasy relationship to one another.

The Painted Drum

While appraising the estate of a New Hampshire family descended from a North Dakota Indian agent, Faye Travers is startled to discover a rare moose skin and cedar drum fashioned long ago by an Ojibwe artisan. And so begins an illuminating journey both backward and forward in time, following the strange passage of a powerful yet delicate instrument, and revealing the extraordinary lives it has touched and defined.

Four Souls

After taking her mother’s name, Four Souls, for strength, the strange and compelling Fleur Pillager walks from her Ojibwe reservation to the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. She is seeking restitution from and revenge on the lumber baron who has stripped her tribe’s land. But revenge is never simple, and her intentions are complicated by her dangerous compassion for the man who wronged her.

Books and Islands in Ojibwe County

In Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country, Erdrich takes us on an illuminating tour through the terrain her ancestors have inhabited for centuries: the lakes and islands of southern Ontario. Summoning to life the Ojibwe’s sacred spirits and songs, their language and sorrows, she considers the many ways in which her tribe—whose name derives from the word ozhibii’ige, “to write”—have influenced her. Her journey links ancient stone paintings with a magical island where a bookish recluse built an extraordinary library, and she reveals how both have transformed her.

Original Fire: Selected and New Poems by [Erdrich, Louise]

Original Fire

In this important collection, award-winning author Louise Erdrich has selected poems from her two previous books of poetry, Jacklight and Baptism of Desire, and has added nineteen new poems to compose Original Fire.

The Blue Jay’s Dance:  A Birth Year

Louise Erdrich’s first major work of nonfiction, The Blue Jay’s Dance, brilliantly and poignantly examines the joys and frustrations, the compromises and insights, and the difficult struggles and profound emotional satisfactions the acclaimed author experienced in the course of one twelve—month period—from a winter pregnancy through a spring and summer of new motherhood to her return to writing in the fall. In exquisitely lyrical prose, Erdrich illuminates afresh the large and small events that every parent will recognize and appreciate.

The Bingo Palace

At the crossroads of his life, Lipsha Morrissey is summoned by his grandmother to return to the reservation. There, he falls in love for the very first time—with the beautiful Shawnee Ray, who’s already considering a marriage proposal from Lipsha’s wealthy entrepreneurial boss, Lyman Lamartine. But when all efforts to win Shawnee’s affections go hopelessly awry, Lipsha seeks out his great-grandmother for a magical solution to his romantic dilemma—on sacred ground where a federally sanctioned bingo palace is slated for construction.

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