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Birchbark Blog

Spring Migration

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Dear Book Lovers,

Every spring they appear. Birds we don't normally see for the rest of the year touch down and startle us. Right now orioles are passing through the city. Some will stay and build their tunnel-like nests in the highest branches, their songs like glass bells. I'm reading A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul.

Only recently have scientists been able to trace bird migration more accurately, and the results of their studies are astounding: Chimney Swifts can live and sleep aloft for 10 months at a time, only landing to nest and raise their young. Birds are able to put half their brains to sleep while flying, while the other half calculates the route. The science of how birds follow maps has to do with magnetism, starlight, and apparently defies quantum physics. I have to read that part over again.

Other terrific reading: We Had A Little Real Estate Problem by Kliph Nesteroff, a history of Native American Comedy. The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, edited by John Freeman, includes two of my all time favorite stories, The Great Silence by Ted Chiang, and The Midnight Zone by Lauren Groff.

I read The Midnight Zone past midnight on a very still dark night and the last two paragraphs scared me to pieces. I'd read this story in daylight and not been so deeply affected. But I recommend reading The Midnight Zone alone at night. Being that scared by a piece of writing is strangely uplifting.

Yours truly!


Smoking Hot New Books

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Dear Book Lovers

I must report that wonderful books by Native writers are flooding our store. On the young adult front, Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley, explores an Anishinaabe community through the voice of a fierce, funny young woman who 'began as a secret, and then a scandal.'  We're also excited about Ancestor Approved, a rich trove of Intertribal stories for kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, as well as Darcie Little Badger's Elatsoe and Cherie Dimaline's Empire of Wild.  Eric Gansworth's Apple, Skin to the Core, is like all of his work both cerebral and passionately of this earth. 

To Be a Water Protector: The Rise of the Wiindigoo Slayers by Winona LaDuke, is a call to join the movement battling world ending fossil fuel projects, currently Line 3.  This is powerful, straightforward, essential work in the voice of a master storyteller fighting for everyone's future. American Indian Stories by Zitkála-Šá with an introduction by Layli Long Soldier, illuminates the life of an extraordinary spirit, a Lakota woman whose voice is both historical and contemporary. Brandon Hobson's The Removed grapples with historical removal and loss in a Cherokee family.  

What a wealth and swirl of books! And there are more. I'll be adding to this list.

A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, edited by Joy Harjo and bearing the lovely title, When the Light of the World was Subdued Our Songs Came Through rests at my bedside because it contains worlds of thought, sorrows, and visions of power and solace.  

It is late, and I'm going to open this volume now. Good night dear book people! 

Read on, stay careful, be ready for spring.



Where We Are Now

Louise Erdrich - Saturday, June 13, 2020
This year will always be a year of befores and afters. Here we are now, in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing. Here at Birchbark Books, we grieve with George Floyd's family. We stand with the protesters and are among the protesters. We are heartsick and furious. Our task now is to provide information that will help deepen understanding that will lead to real, true, change. However it is worded -- defund, dismantle, abolish -- we have to fix policing. A movement to do this has started here in Minneapolis and reverberated throughout the world. What we do now will help lead the way for others.

There are reasons that reform hasn't worked since Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and countless others were killed by police. Ricardo Lopez, Senior Political Reporter for The Minnesota Reformer, wrote an article addressing systemic racism in Minneapolis-St.Paul and why it persists in our police force. I can't say it better than Mr. Lopez: "Minnesota's Decades Long Failure to Confront Police Abuse"

Last Friday, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution to create a "Future of Community Safety Work Group". This group will study modes of public safety and seek experts who can help keep ALL citizens safe without resorting to harassment, intimidation, and violence. The result of Black Lives Matter, Black Visions Collective, citizen activism, and this study by the City Council is likely to be a policing initiative on the ballot next November. We need to know the issues and get out the vote.

When I first saw signs demanding Abolish The Police, I was confused. How could such a thing happen? I turned to The End of Policing by Alex Vitale. This  matter-of-fact book has helped me understand what an initiative next fall could look like. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Let's not lose the momentum that we have, let's not stop creatively coming together and growing, let's not be a city that allows things to go back to the way they were before. I want to be part of a true after.  

We have a few copies of The End of Policing now and will be getting many more soon from Verso Press. Please call and reserve a copy of this book. The word essential has gotten a lot of use lately, but when I say this book is essential I truly mean it. 

While you are waiting for The End of Policing, I also recommend White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson -- a book that brings clarity to history and sheds light on where we are now. At present, I'm reading From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. I'm not done with this book yet, but Taylor is a formidable analyst and a brilliant writer. 

Shock, rage, sorrow and protest open a lot of hearts. Let's keep our hearts open to one another and make real change happen right here. 

Love and Justice,


Canoe Family

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