The literary landscape of Louise Erdrich (pronounced air-drik) is the land of her formative years, the Northern Plains. Her characters reflect her own ancestry, German and Chippewa. Her stories are complexly woven tales of struggle, hardship, hope, love and passion amidst the raw and unforgiving terrain of North Dakota. Erdrich, whose parents were employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, grew up experiencing the rich oral storytelling tradition associated with Indian culture, and storytelling is unquestionably her gift to her readers.
Erdrich’s literary career began in 1984, with the publication of Jacklight, a volume of poetry. It is significant that her first published work was poetry as her prose is at once concise yet sensual. Over the years she has been a best-selling author of novels, children’s stories, essays, and two more volumes of poetry.
The appeal of Erdrich’s work lies in her ability to weave contemporary issues such as generational conflicts or tribal politics with such universal themes as overcoming despair through love and hope.
The nine novels which take place in and around the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota are a tour de force. The first novel, Love Medicine, introduces readers to several families whose histories are further revealed in subsequent novels. However, it is not necessary to read the books in any particular order as each stands on its own as a cohesive work. Her compelling storytelling and original voice has earned Erdrich a spot among literature’s important novelists.
Erdrich was married to Michael Dorris with whom she met while attending Dartmouth College. The two collaborated on much of their work until their separation in 1995. Dorris committed suicide in 1997, after struggling with depression. In addition to many stories and novels, they collaborated on a nonfiction work, The Broken Chord, which focused on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a condition one of their adopted children was born with.
Erdrich is the recipient of many honors and awards among them the National Book Critics Circle Award (for fiction and nonfiction), the Pushcart Prize, National Book Award finalist, American Book Award, National Magazine fiction award and several O. Henry Prize Stories awards.
Erdrich now lives in Minneapolis raising her children and running Birch Bark Books and Native Arts which is “operated by a spirited collection of people who believe in the power of good writing, the beauty of hand made art, the strength of Native culture, and the importance of small and intimate bookstores,” (from their website).
Love Medicine (1984)
The Beet Queen (1986)
The Bingo palace (1995)
Tales of Burning Love (1997)
The Antelope Wife (1998)
The Last report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001) LP
The Master Butchers Singing Club (2002) **, ***
Four Souls (2004)
The Painted Drum (2005)***
The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year (1995)
Baptism of Desire: poems (1989)
Original Fire: Selected and New Poems (2003)