Though the mystery book in this year’s 2013 National Book Awards “Bleeding Edge” by writer Thomas Pynchon did not win, last year’s winner, Louise Erdrich, did win the award for fiction for her novel “The Round House.” She was a finalist of the award in 2001 for the novel The Last Report on the Miracle at Little No Horse. The exceptional novelist and poet focuses her writing on Native Americans. Erdrich won the award on November 14, 2012; a perfect month to win since November is Native American Heritage Month.
Erdrich has been classified as part of the second wave of writers in the “Native American Renaissance”. The term was first named by critic Kenneth Lincoln from a 1983 book by the same name which Wikipedia describes as this –
In the work Native American Literatures: An Introduction, author Suzanne Lundquist purports the Native American Renaissance as coming in three forms:
• Reclamation of heritage through literary expression
• Discovery and reevaluation of early texts by Native American authors
• Renewed interest in customary tribal artistic expression (i.e. mythology, ceremonialism, ritual and the oral tradition of narrative transmission).[
The Round House is the 14th novel Erdrich has written and is portrayed by critics as this –
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.
Riveting and suspenseful, arguably the most accessible novel to date from the creator of Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, andThe Bingo Palace, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.
Erdrich is an alumna from Dartmouth College (Class of 1972) and has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University. She was honored by Dartmouth in 2009 for giving the commencement speech and receiving an honorary Doctorate of Letters. In winning the National Book Award the Dartmouth website (www.now.dartmouth.edu) wrote the following –
In her acceptance speech Wednesday, Erdrich began by speaking in her Native American language in recognition of Native people watching, before switching to English.
“I’d like to, in the end, accept this in the spirit of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa people and in recognition of the grace and the endurance of Native women,” said Erdrich. “This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations, and thank you for giving it a wider audience. It means so much to all of us.”
The Round House, published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, is set in the spring of 1988 on a reservation in North Dakota, and follows the 13-year-old Joe Coutts, who seeks justice for his mother after she is viciously attacked.
“Once I discovered (Joe Coutts’) voice, I was hooked into his world,” Erdrich said after giving a reading on campus this year. “There’s things about him that are so affecting to me because he started being someone that I didn’t really think I’d come to know.
“This novel is about, in broad terms, an issue that is extremely timely—but it’s been timely for a long time— it’s about the rape and abuse of women in Indian country and the difficulty that there is in prosecuting these cases,” she said.
“The situation there is absolutely abysmal for women.”
Find out more on Louise Erdrich’s novel as she discusses it with host Terry Tazioli on the PBS series Well Read. Watch the video on www.wellreadtv.com and at the bottom of the main page type in “Round House.”
You may also like Erdrich's interview on PBS.