Louise Erdrich Biography
(1954– ), Love Medicine, Jacklight, The Beet Queen, Tracks, The Crown of Columbus, The Bingo Palace
American novelist and poet, born in Little Falls, Arizona, to a father of German origin and a Native American mother. She was educated at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, and later graduated from Dartmouth College. Erdrich's first and highly praised novel, Love Medicine (1984), was the richly poetic story of the interlinked destinies of two Chippewa families. Ranging from 1934 to 1984, it displayed Erdrich's formidable knowledge of Native American history and folklore, and was lauded as a new departure in contemporary American fiction, which was at the time marked by the minimalist trend. Her first collection of poems, Jacklight, also appeared in 1984. Erdrich's next novel, The Beet Queen (1986), covered the same period as its predecessor but was more an American rural novel in the grand tradition of Faulkner, whose influence Erdrich acknowledges. It was enthusiastically received in Britain by such writers as John Berger, Angela Carter, and Marina Warner, and Erdrich was widely held to be one of the most important American voices of the decade. Tracks (1988), the third volume of what loosely constitutes a tetralogy, presents an explicitly Native American vision of history. The Crown of Columbus (1991), co-authored by her husband, fellow Native American writer and frequent collaborator Michael Dorris, employs the genre of the research novel and attempts to combine questions of significance to the history of the Americas and their native peoples in a robust adventure story. The Bingo Palace (1994) is the fourth in Erdrich's series of novels chronicling the lives and interlinked fortunes of several Native American and other families. It returns to the characters and situations of much of her previous work; its tone and technique are reminiscent of Love Medicine and The Beet Queen, though its range of voices and narrative span are considerably smaller. See also Native American Literature and Ethnicity.