It feels like Louise Erdrich has always been some place close to me in spirit, although our paths have never physically crossed. In 1997, I happened to be involved in a project in Seattle with the Elliot Bay Book Company when her estranged husband, the writer Michael Dorris, committed suicide. The ripple of grief was so great for the owners and literary community that, although I was just a visitor, it left an indelible mark on me. Before and after that time, I had many times heard her name and of her work.
Over the past week reading her book The Roundhouse, a book about a young man coming of age on a North Dakota reservation which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002, I was again struck by how artists can explore the complexity of human experience. In particular Erdrich peels back the interrelated details of violence, sexual predation, and the institutionalized racism that sanctions them. Need I say how relevant this exploration is in 2018?
In the future, when someone flinches at the notion of institutionalized racism, this is a book I will recommend. Themes of justice and revenge emerge, but so does the notion of belonging and place. These are notions that are critical to our understanding of each other both personally and as a society. Louise Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a band of the Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwe and Chippewa).
All the best,
P.s. Mark your calendars! This Friday from 6 – 8 PM is the opening reception for Color(s), an exhibition curated by the 2018 UALP Cohort that examines the avenues artists of color utilize to shift the paradigm for representation: encouraging dialogues that challenge the restrictive impact of the “white gaze” on the arts sector. I'll see you there!