Congratulations to Louise Erdrich, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Distinguished Achievement Award. This prize recognizes the power of literature to encourage peace and social justice. Named for the diplomat who brokered the Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia, it is given for a body of work. Previous winners include Elie Wiesel and Wendell Berry.
Like many of us, Erdrich longs for peace among peoples and for individuals. Raised by an Ojibwe-French mother and a German-American father in North Dakota, much of her work deals with honest portraits of people who struggle with cultural differences and the effects of violence. Empathy is a hallmark of her writing.
She lives in Minnesota where she is the owner of Birchbark Books and Native Arts located at 2115 W. 21st Street in Minneapolis. You may order books on line, read her blog or just enjoy reading this informative website. www.birchbarkbooks.com If you are in the area, don’t miss this wonderful bookstore.
Her work includes poetry, short stories, children’s books, and non-fiction. Below is a thumb-nail of three of her best known books.
Love Medicine. Her first book won the National Book Critics Circle award and explored the plight of some Native Americans.
The Plague of Doves. This novel was the 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It deals with racial discord and changing fortunes in North Dakota.
The Round House. This work of fiction won the 2012 National Book Award. The story follows a teen-age boy’s effort to investigate a crime of violence against his mother.
The titles of her novels read like poetry: Tracks, Four Souls, The Master Butchers Singing Club, The Beet Queen, The Bingo Palace, The Blue Jay’s Dance (non-fiction), The Last Report on the Miracles At Little No Horse. (This is not a complete list.)
I share one line from her poem: “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways” published in a volume entitled Original Fire. “Home’s the place we head for in our sleep.” I hope you will read at least the first stanza and hopefully the entire poem available at the website: www.poetryfoundation.org. (I badly wanted to quote the first stanza. I believe it illustrates how her work awakens our sense of justice for others. Without permission, I feel I should not do so. I hope you will go to the aforementioned website, type the title in the search box, and read this poem.)
If you have not read Ms. Erdrich’s writing, I urge you to choose a book that interests you and lose yourself in the search of an ordinary person for justice. Of course, no person is ordinary, each follows a unique path. Her writing is likely to strengthen your path as you search peace and justice and gift you with the cane of empathy to assist you in your journey.