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Louise Erdrich (born Karen Louise Erdrich, June 7, 1954)[1] is an American author, writer of novels, poetry, and children's books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a federally recognized tribe of the Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwe and Chippewa).[2]

Louise Erdrich
Erdrich at the 2015 National Book Festival.
Erdrich at the 2015 National Book Festival.
BornKaren Louise Erdrich
(1954-06-07) June 7, 1954 (age 65)
Little Falls, Minnesota, US
OccupationNovelist, short story writer, poet
ResidenceMinneapolis, Minnesota
Alma materDartmouth College
GenreNative American literature, children's books
Literary movementPostmodernism, Native American Renaissance
Notable works
Notable awardsNational Book Award for Fiction
SpouseMichael Dorris (divorced) (deceased)

Erdrich is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant writers of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance. In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and received an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.[3] In November 2012, she received the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Round House.[4] She was awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction at the National Book Festival in September 2015.[5] She was married to author Michael Dorris and the two collaborated on a number of works.

She is also the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis that focuses on Native American literature and the Native community in the Twin Cities.[6]

Early and personal lifeEdit

Erdrich was born on June 7, 1954, in Little Falls, Minnesota. She was the oldest of seven children born to Ralph Erdrich, a German-American, and Rita (née Gourneau), a Chippewa woman (of half Ojibwe and half French blood). Both parents taught at a boarding school in Wahpeton, North Dakota, set up by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Erdrich's maternal grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, served as tribal chairman for the federally recognized tribe of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians for many years.[7]

While Erdrich was a child, her father paid her a nickel for every story she wrote. Her sister Heidi became a poet and also lives in Minnesota; she publishes under the name Heid E. Erdrich.[8] Another sister, Lise Erdrich, has written children's books and collections of fiction and essays.

Post secondary educationEdit

Erdrich attended Dartmouth College from 1972 to 1976.[9] She was a part of the first class of women admitted to the college and earned an A.B. in English. During her first year, Erdrich met Michael Dorris, an anthropologist, writer, and then-director of the new Native American Studies program. While attending Dorris' class, she began to look into her own ancestry, which inspired her to draw from it for her literary work, such as poems, short stories, and novels.

In 1978, Erdrich enrolled in a Master of Arts program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She earned the Master of Arts in the Writing Seminars in 1979.[9] Erdrich later published some of the poems and stories she wrote while in the M.A. program. She returned to Dartmouth as a writer-in-residence.[9]


Erdrich remained in contact with Dorris. He attended one of her poetry readings, became impressed with her work, and developed an interest in working with Erdrich. Although Erdrich and Dorris were on two different sides of the world, Erdrich in Boston and Dorris in New Zealand for field research, the two began to collaborate on short stories. Their collaborative story, "The World's Greatest Fisherman", won $5,000 in the Nelson Algren fiction competition.[9] Erdrich and Dorris expanded the story into the novel Love Medicine (1984), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

Around the same time, Dorris returned from New Zealand. The pair's literary partnership led them to a romantic relationship. They married in 1981, and raised three adopted children and three biological children together. They separated in 1995, and Dorris committed suicide in 1997.


When asked in an interview if writing is a lonely life for her, Erdrich replied, "Strangely, I think it is. I am surrounded by an abundance of family and friends and yet I am alone with the writing. And that is perfect." Erdrich lives in Minneapolis.[10]


In 1979 she wrote "The World's Greatest Fisherman", a short story about June Kashpaw, a divorced Ojibwe woman whose death by hypothermia brought her relatives home to a fictional North Dakota reservation for her funeral. It won the Nelson Algren Short Fiction prize and eventually became the first chapter of her debut novel, Love Medicine, published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1984.[10]

Love Medicine won the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award.[11] It has also been featured on the National Advanced Placement Test for Literature.[12]

During the publication of Love Medicine, Erdrich produced her first collection of poems, Jacklight (1984), which highlights the struggles between Native and non-Native cultures, as well as celebrating family, ties of kinship, autobiographical meditations, monologues, and love poetry. She incorporates elements of Ojibwe myths and legends.[9] Erdrich continued to write poems, which have been included in her collections. She is best known as a novelist, and has published a dozen award-winning and best-selling novels.[9]

Erdrich followed Love Medicine with The Beet Queen (1986), which continued her technique of using multiple narrators and expanded the fictional reservation universe of Love Medicine to include the nearby town of Argus, North Dakota. The action of the novel takes place mostly before World War II. Leslie Marmon Silko accused Erdrich's The Beet Queen of being more concerned with postmodern technique than with the political struggles of Native peoples.[13]

Tracks (1988) goes back to the early 20th century at the formation of the reservation. It introduces the trickster figure of Nanapush, who owes a clear debt to Ojibwe figure Nanabozho.[14] Tracks shows early clashes between traditional ways and the Roman Catholic Church. The Bingo Palace (1994), set in the 1980s, describes the effects of a casino and a factory on the reservation community. Tales of Burning Love (1997) finishes the story of Sister Leopolda, a recurring character from all the previous books, and introduces a new set of European-American people into the reservation universe.

The Antelope Wife (1998), Erdrich's first novel after her divorce from Dorris, was the first of her novels to be set outside the continuity of the previous books.[15]

She subsequently returned to the reservation and nearby towns. She has published five novels since 1998 dealing with events in that fictional area. Among these are The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001) and The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003). Both novels have geographic and character connections with The Beet Queen. In 2009, Erdrich's novel The Plague of Doves was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. The narrative focuses on the historical lynching of four Native people wrongly accused of murdering a Caucasian family, and the effect of this injustice on the current generations.

Nonfiction and teachingEdit

In addition to fiction and poetry, Erdrich has published nonfiction. The Blue Jay's Dance (1995) is about her pregnancy and the birth of her first child. Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country traces her travels in northern Minnesota and Ontario's lakes following the birth of her last daughter.[16]

Erdrich and her two sisters have hosted writers' workshops on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.[17]

Influence and styleEdit

Her heritage from both parents is influential in her life and prominent in her work.[18] Although many of Erdrich's works explore her Native American heritage, her novel The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003) featured the European, specifically German, side of her ancestry. The novel includes stories of a World War I veteran of the German Army and is set in a small North Dakota town. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Erdrich's complexly interwoven series of novels have drawn comparisons with William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha novels. Like Faulkner's, Erdrich's successive novels created multiple narratives in the same fictional area and combined the tapestry of local history with current themes and modern consciousness.[19]

Birchbark BooksEdit

Her bookstore hosts literary readings and other events. Erdrich's new works are read here, and events celebrate the works and careers of other writers as well, particularly local Native writers. Erdrich and her staff consider Birchbark Books to be a "teaching bookstore".[20] In addition to books, the store sells Native art and traditional medicines, and Native American jewelry. Wiigwaas Press, a small nonprofit publisher founded by Erdrich and her sister, is affiliated with the store.[20]



See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Stookey, Lorena Laura (January 1, 1999). Louise Erdrich: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 1–. ISBN 9780313306129. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  2. ^ "Louise Erdrich : Voices From the Gaps : University of Minnesota". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  3. ^ The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards – Winners by Year
  4. ^ Leslie Kaufman (November 14, 2012). "Novel About Racial Injustice Wins National Book Award". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Alexandra Alter (March 17, 2015). "Louise Erdrich Wins Library of Congress Award". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  6. ^ "Birchbark Books & Native Arts | Welcome!". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  7. ^ Gates, Jr., Professor Henry Louis (Host) (2010). "Louise Erdrich". Faces of America. PBS.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Heid E. Erdrich". Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Louise Erdrich". Poetry Foundation.
  10. ^ a b Halliday, Lisa (Winter 2010). "Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction". The Paris Review (208).
  11. ^ a b "Louise Erdrich: About the Author: HarperCollins Publishers". March 24, 2010. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  12. ^ "AP Literature: Titles from Free Response Questions since 1971". May 13, 2013. Archived from the original on November 30, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  13. ^ Susan Castillo "Postmodernism, Native American Literature, and the Real: The Silko-Erdrich Controversy" in Notes from the Periphery: Marginality in North American Literature and Culture New York: Peter Lang, 1995. 179–190.
  14. ^ There are many studies of the trickster figure in Erdrich's novels. A recent study that makes the connection between Nanabozho and Nanpush is "The Trickster and World Maintenance: An Anishinaabe Reading of Louise Erdrich's Tracks" by Lawrence W. Gross [1]
  15. ^ Lorena Laura Stookey, Louise Erdrich: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999 ISBN 0-313-30612-5, ISBN 978-0-313-30612-9
  16. ^ Department of English (2001). "About Louise Erdrich". University of Illinois. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Three Graces". Minneapolis Star Tribune. February 4, 2008. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  18. ^ "Louise Erdrich". Poetry Foundation. May 12, 2018. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  19. ^ See, e.g., Powell's Books (book review), The Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 2004
  20. ^ a b "Our Story | Birchbark Books & Native Arts | Minneapolis, MN". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  21. ^ "Erdrich, Louise". 2005. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  22. ^ "Louise Erdrich – John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  23. ^ "Bold Type: O. Henry Award Winners 1919–2000". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  24. ^ World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  25. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  26. ^ Salahub, Jill (November 9, 2017). "Native American Heritage Month: Louise Erdrich". Colorado State University. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  27. ^ [2] Archived April 13, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "Author Louise Erdrich rejects UND honor over 'Sioux' nickname | Minnesota Public Radio News". April 20, 2007. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  29. ^ "Dartmouth 2009 Honorary Degree Recipient Louise Erdrich '76 (Doctor of Letters)". June 7, 2010. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  30. ^ "Native American author Louise Erdrich '76 to give Dartmouth's 2009 Commencement address Sunday, June 14". June 7, 2010. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  31. ^ "Kenyon Review for Literary Achievement". Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)
  32. ^ "AnisfieldWolf Book Awards | The Plague of Doves". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  33. ^ "Louise Erdrich, The Round House – National Book Award Fiction Winner, The National Book Foundation". October 24, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  34. ^ "Dartmouth Alumna Louise Erdrich '76 Wins National Book Award | Dartmouth Now". November 15, 2012. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  35. ^ "Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award". Office of Governor, State of North Dakota. 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  36. ^ Lisa Cornwell (August 17, 2014). "writer louise erdrich wins ohio peace prize". Associated Press. Retrieved August 18, 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  37. ^ Hillel Italie (September 9, 2014). "erdrich wins lifetime achievement literary prize". Nashoba Publishing. Associated Press. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  38. ^ "National Book Critics Circle: award winners". National Book Critics Circle. 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2019.

External linksEdit