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Erdrich, Louise

chippewa beautiful north argus

(US, 1954– )

Erdrich writes poetry, short stories and novels, drawing upon her Native American Chippewa and German-immigrant descent. Love Medicine (1984, revised and expanded 1993), utilizes Chippewa story-telling traditions, which engage with the spiritual world of the culture and its strong connection to the land. Fourteen interwoven stories span the years 1934–84 through the experiences of five Chippewa and mixed-blood families. Erdrich's prose has a strongly poetic quality, offering a vivid, almost mystical, view of the inner worlds of her characters, and their desires and weaknesses in the face of displacement.

The Beet Queen (1986) draws on the European-immigrant side of Erdrich's background. Deserted by her beautiful mother who runs away with an aeroplane stunt pilot, Mary Adare is raised by Uncle Pete and Aunt Fritzie who own a butcher's shop in the town of Argus. Mary rejects the dreamy impulsiveness of her mother, surviving through a quiet, plodding approach to life. Most of the inhabitants of Argus are outsiders, all struggling for a sense of belonging, often driven by extraordinary obsessions. In The Bingo Palace (1994) Lipsha Morrissey answers his grandmother's summons to return to his birthplace. On the Indian Reservation, he falls in love with beautiful Shawnee Ray, whose boss is planning to open a gambling complex on the land, threatening to destroy the community's links to the past.

These three books, along with Tracks (1988), form a series of inter-linked narratives which create a multi-layered chronicle of Native American and white experience in twentieth-century North Dakota. All of Erdrich's novels sensuously evoke the vast North Dakota landscape.

E. Annie Proulx, Jane Smiley, William Faulkner. See UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  DJ

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