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Minneapolis authors Louise Erdrich, William Alexander win National Book Awards

Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich

Kudos to Minneapolis author Louise Erdrich, whose latest novel, "The Round House," won the National Book Award for fiction last night. It’s high time this prolific and incredibly talented author received such notice for her work; no one else writes quite like her.

“The Round House” tracks the efforts of an Ojibwe youth to find justice after his mother is raped. The book, New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote, “opens out to become a detective story and a coming-of-age story, a story about how Joe is initiated into the sadnesses and disillusionments of grown-up life and the somber realities of his people’s history.”

At the awards ceremony in New York, Erdrich dedicated her award to “the grace and endurance of native people.”

Minneapolis writer and MCAD instructor William Alexander  won in the young people’s literature category for his debut novel, “Goblin Secrets.” 

William Alexander
William Alexander

Author Delia Sherman wrote of Alexander's book, "Goblin Secrets includes all my favorite things: mystery, magic, and plenty of thrills, a goblin theatrical troupe, a beautifully realized fantasy world, and an orphan boy searching for his lost brother."

In the nonfiction category, Katherine Boo was honored for “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.” The poetry winner was David Ferry for “ Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. Full information is available on the National Book Foundation website.

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Comments (1)

A strong thematic and plot

A strong thematic and plot element in "The Round House" is questions around legal jurisdiction on tribal lands, and the problems that creates for native peoples. The history of the land, treaties, and laws complicates criminal investigations, trials, and consequences; the Erdrich novel presents that question in a well-wrought story.

That theme is very relevant to today's news: It has recently been reported that the federal government, which has criminal jurisdiction on Indian reservations, has severely cut funding for law its law enforcement there. Simultaneously, there has been a crime "boom" on reservations, most particularly in a horrendous increase in the number of rapes of Native American women. Rape, and the lack of clear jurisdictions about who's to investigate, prosecute, try, and punish, is the motor of "The Round House."

One simply can't be more "current" than that. And in Erdrich's unique voice.