Trailblazers 2016: Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich credit Paul Emmel

Louise Erdrich // Photo by Paul Emmel

Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has, exploring—in intimate and fearless ways—the myriad cultural challenges that indigenous and mixed-race Americans face.” These words, spoken by the previous Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, addressed the literary and virtuosic impact that Erdrich exudes, as she was awarded the 2015 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

In a career that covers over three decades, the enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians has written 15 novels, as well as children’s books, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction books. Her work has garnered numerous accolades, including a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the National Book Award. Erdrich was the 2014 winner of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, placing her among the highest ranks of American literature.

Through her storytelling the author leads a compassionate conversation of Native American life, influenced by her family’s heritage, traditions, and contemporary cultural and societal issues.

Erdrich continued the conversation in 2016 with her 15th novel, “LaRose.” In it, a hunter named Landreaux accidentally kills the child of his neighbor. Faced with immense anguish and guilt, Landreaux turns to his Ojibwe ancestors’ wisdom, and decides that he will give his own son, LaRose, to the parents of the deceased child.

This novel, like Erdrich’s others, tackles an array of complex issues in the Native American community, from drug abuse to family relations and loss. But Erdrich’s style of storytelling transcends racial and ethnic boundaries, and speaks to readers of all backgrounds.

Quite simply, through her award-winning and deeply layered stories, Louise Erdrich has continued to foster cultural understanding and personal reflection at a time when our nation needs it most.

Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.


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