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Birchbark Blog

National Book Awards

Louise Erdrich - Friday, November 16, 2012

New York City post Sandy.  Disheveled streets but lots of movement.  The beautiful and fabled Cipriani!  And seriously, a red carpet.  With photographers.  All the other fiction finalists are better looking than me, and they are guys.  Third nomination for the National Book Award -- and I know exactly what to do when my book doesn't win.  I will turn to my editor, shrug. Then we say in unison, "we wuz robbed."  But this time after a few days of downing Tums and with erratic sleep, I hear the title of my own book called and my head drops on the table -- good thing the plate was gone.  I remember galloping up to hug Lorrie Moore (chair of the fiction judges).  Once I start hugging her I don't want to let go, as then I will have to say something.  I am not good at preparing speeches -- my words always get away from me.  All I remembered was that I would try and start the speech in Ojibwemowin because if I did that I was fairly sure I'd get some magnanimous spirit to help me with the rest of it.  Besides, I had promised my daughter Persia that I would use the Ojibwe language as often as possible -- she is working so hard to become an Ojibwe immersion school teacher.

Back to those good looking guys, the other finalists. Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King, Junot Diaz, This is How You Lose Her, Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn's Long Half-time Walk, and Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds.  I read each book and each time I finished reading I thought "this is the one, this one is better."  They are all books that should have won this prize.  But I was in a magic realm of chivalry.  First, Junot Diaz approached me before the whole shebang and said that he wanted me to win this -- he was utterly charming and completely in earnest.  Besides, he loves one of my favorite writers, Michael Martone. I have already met the only person who really belongs on the red carpet -- carelessly gorgeous terrific writer and editor of The Believer, Vendela Vida, married to Dave Eggers.  When I met her I didn't realize that she was married to him, I was trying not to stare at her profile.  She mentioned that Dave was taking care of the kids while she was out working -- hey, I found out, that Dave, taking care of the kids.  Once I knew, had to like him.  As it turns out, he, too, is okay with being in good company and looks like he just wants to go home. Likewise, the other painfully handsome dudes -- Kevin Powers and Ben Fountain.  They make a point of saying they are glad for me, removing awkwardness.  Ben's sweetly handsome son (why are they all so nice looking?) finds me to shake hands.  In fact, it feels like nobody actually won this thing and I go home with a 5 lb piece of bronze feeling just the same as when a finalist. 

But once home, it starts -- as I get out of the airport cab and drag my little bag up to the house my agile wide-eyed fourth grade niece throws herself along the sidewalk, a blaze of red hoodie and brown hair.  She collides with me, up in my arms, a hug.  Then she yells at me, you won, you won, and we got ice cream!  Hey, both of their parents are pediatricians.  Ice cream is big.  Ice cream all around and a 10 lb piece of bronze in my carry on.  Guess it did happen.  More -- stay tuned. 

LOYCE SMITH, BOISE commented on 17-Nov-2012 12:49 AM
Congratulations to my favorite author. I expected it to be a great book and had planned to ration it out at one chapter per day. That did not work. I got too involved in the story and had to keep reading every spare minute until I finished. Now I can read it again at leisure. Thank you, Louise.
Ann Dallman commented on 17-Nov-2012 10:44 AM
I agree. I read The Round House and couldn't put it down. But, then, I love and adore all of your books! What is this about how gorgeous the male finalists were? Louse, you are a knock-down, absolutely, stunningly gorgeous woman. What struck me when I met you was, in addition to your generosity of spirit, that you were physically so lovely.
Jim Cihlar commented on 17-Nov-2012 10:58 AM
So deserved!

So sweet. And, by the way, you are way better looking than all of those dudes!
Claire Kirch, Publishers Weekly commented on 17-Nov-2012 11:30 AM
I was so thrilled that you won, I had a feeling you would, after all the buzz from booksellers I've been hearing all summer and fall. Congratulations! And I've met Kevin Powers -- he indeed is very handsome.
Mare atleo commented on 17-Nov-2012 12:54 PM
Congrats! So glad you won! Of course I have enjoyed your books for ever it seems and I love that you are learning your heritage language which gives you more insight into culture. The birchbark series has been a standard text for my teacher candidates in a required post BA Ed degree course. My students read the books out loud to each other to imagine the lives of Native children and cultural context. The books have been a blessing for me as has the rest of your work even the most difficult! Keep on keeping on..kindest regards, all my relations mare
Jennifer Fay, Albuquerque commented on 17-Nov-2012 01:01 PM
I tried rationing The Round House too, & totally failed. It consumed me like pac-man. Dang! It's good to see young Native guys portrayed as heroes with real-people instincts. Need more of that - bust up stereotypes. I am elated that you won. Well deserved! Bravo!
Trisha Winn commented on 17-Nov-2012 05:26 PM
Finally! And I get the ice cream bit. At our house it's pizza--I have two girls on a gluten-free diet that will take a good cheese pizza over ice cream any day. Congratulations!
Amalia Pistilli Conrad commented on 21-Nov-2012 12:46 AM
Dear Ms Erdrich, you are THE BEST. The most wonderful wordsmith in the English language, certainly in America. Your language is like a box of sparkling jewels, all shiny and multi-faceted against their dark velvet background.
It was about time you got the recognition you deserved—the recognition that Native American and Canadian Aboriginal writers deserve.
Thank you for your books, thank you for existing!
John Sakowicz commented on 22-Nov-2012 01:59 AM
Louise -- Congratulations on your National Book Award from where I live in Potter Valley, Mendocino County, CA...Pomo country.

The name Pomo derives from a conflation of the Pomo words [p o mo] and [p o ma]. It originally meant "those who live at red earth hole" and was once the name of a village in southern Potter Valley near the present-day community of Pomo. It may have referred to local deposits of the red mineral magnesite, used for red beads, or to the reddish earth and clay such as hematite mined in the area.
Madalyn Benoit commented on 22-Nov-2012 07:42 AM
Dear Ms. Erdrich,

Every time I pick up and begin one of your books, I know I have a treasure in my hands. Congratulations on winning the National Book Award and thank you for writing with such heartful beauty. I am in NYC bot would love to visit Birchbark Books one day.

I send you a big bear-hug!
Mary Ellen Carew commented on 25-Nov-2012 07:47 AM
Congratulations on the National Book Award!! I don't know what those other authors look like, but nobody shines with beauty like you. It's from inside, and that's where your fabulous books come from, too. (I saw you once--up on the stage--at a reading in Iowa City 20+ years ago.) Tracks blew me away, and I've read all of your subsequent novels with the greatest pleasure. I sent The Antelope Wife (your latest at the time) as an example of good writing to a young Norwegian woman in Niger who wants to write about her life there. Can't wait to send her The Round House.
Sylvie Chapus commented on 28-Nov-2012 07:58 AM
Bravo Louise for this award! You really deserved it! I have been so lucky to meet you in real in Vincennes,France at the end of September. I especially flew from my city to Paris to be able to see you and listen to you at Festival America. I started to read your books in 1996 for taking my teaching exams and since then, I love reading your novels. Hopefully I can travel to the US soon and visit your bookshop.
Louise Erdrich commented on 02-Dec-2012 11:32 PM
Thank you everyone who posted a comment. I'm happy when readers can't ration a book and have to read it all at once -- because I live for that feeling when reading other writers. Right now I've been trying to ration The Devil's Highway, The Hummingbird's Daughter, Queen of America -- all by Luis Alberto Urrea. He's truly a marvelous addictive writer. Like most people who love wildly whirling prose I loved Swamplandia, by Karen Russell. Then there was Lord of Misrule, by Jaimie Gordon and Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth. Anybody else love these books?
M. WIllemsen commented on 18-Jan-2013 04:15 AM
Dear Ms Erdrich,

I just finished "The Roundhouse" and wanted to congratulate you on another amazing novel. You certainly deserve all of the accolades that you have received for this book and hopefully will continue to be recognized as one of the most outstanding writers of our time. I had the great opportunity to visit Birchbark Books while I was visiting my sister who is a patron of your charming store. I bought as many books as I could fit into my suitcase since many publications are hard to find in The Netherlands. I look forward to your continued work and success. Also, I want to thank you for making me aware of such a beautiful culture, and unfortunately the harsh realities of what the Native American people face in order to maintain their way of life.
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Congratulations, Louise! Winner of the 2012 National Book Award in Fiction for The Round House

Birchbark Books - Friday, November 16, 2012

We at Birchbark Books could not be more excited for and proud of beloved bookstore owner, Louise Erdrich. Louise received the award with her usual grace and style, speaking initially in Ojibwe as "a shout out for all the native people watching" and saying she wanted to receive the honor in "recognition of the grace and endurance of native women.”

You can view Louise's acceptance speech here.


Click here to purchase your own signed copy of The Round House.

Click here to view a list of recent media appearances by Louise and reviews of The Round House.

Check out (and like!) the new official Louise Erdrich Facebook Page, where you will find exclusive content from Louise's personal collection of photos, notebooks, and more!

Check out (and like!) the Birchbark Books Facebook Page for all the latest news from your favorite independent bookstore.


ann commented on 17-Nov-2012 06:25 AM
My family sends best wishes and we are happy that you wrote this message and included us, even the one who had to use GPS to find Birchbark, in your acceptance speach.
Linda Marie commented on 17-Nov-2012 08:45 AM
Howah! Congratulations Louise. You have a beautiful spirit and grace.
Dave Holt commented on 19-Nov-2012 01:53 PM
Congratulations Louise. It was a thrill to watch you get the award on CSpanBook TV. Could you please post your speech in Ojibwemowin for we who are trying to learn and preserve the language? Thank you from a grandson of the Debassige family, Addik Clan, of M'Chigeeng First Nation Reserve, Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
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