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Birchbark Blog

Happy Winter

Louise Erdrich - Tuesday, February 05, 2013

I had simply been too nice, for too long, as this is Minnesota.  So I read the Patrick Melrose Novels, by Edward St. Aubyn, practically weeping with relief.  Vicarious cruelty, sordid little lusts, an epic search to score heroin while carrying a parent's ashes, it has helped enormously. 

Patrick, on his parents vodka fueled marriage: "Perhaps, on the contrary, it was her money that had cheapened him.  He had stopped his medical practice soon after their marriage.  At the beginning, there had been talk of using some of her money to start a home for alcoholics.  In a sense they had succeeded."

The four novellas contain abuse, incest, indelicacies, vicious cuts at the person of Princess Margaret, hilarious descriptions of clothing, party swag, and the venal behavior of the British upper class.  There is also bewildered tenderness and a narrator who staggers toward something that resembles hope.  

Birchbark Books is going to Washington D.C. via train to take part in the Feb 17th action on curbing the fossil fuel industry.  We'll let you know how that goes, how the train goes, what we see and what we are reading.  

I might take the St. Aubyn and read it all again.  Or the new Karen Russell book, short stories including one about a Vampire in a Lemon Grove -- I just glimpsed an intriguing review -- 

Yours for books,


(View Louise's Facebook Page for more thoughts about the climate action in DC)

Susan Merrill commented on 06-Feb-2013 02:18 PM
I love that story about the vampires in the lemon grove! My techno-literate children just can't understand my love of books, though we read so many together in their early days. Just bought a beautiful edition of the Decameron at my library's used book sale and am enjoying every word as I have always wanted to read this masterpiece! Please accept my thanks, Ms. Erdrich, for giving me many hours of true bliss. Your writing is included in my all-time top ten list, and I am absolutely looking forward to reading "The Round House"!
Anonymous commented on 06-Mar-2013 05:07 PM
Don't know about politics and was it good that house passed VAWA?
Annetelope 13 commented on 09-Mar-2013 10:13 PM
Hello Louise!

My first visit to your website for Birchbark Books...and I have just finished reading "The Round House." Wonderful (as are all your novels).
I also noted that the President has just signed a strengthened Violence Against Women Act, including, for the first time, protection for Native American Women on reservations. I cannot help but feel that your novel inspired this addition. And thank you for all the joy your novels have given me over the years.

Anne Werner
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Back to Real

Louise Erdrich - Sunday, December 02, 2012

So that was a great night in New York City but home again is better, sweeter, and as everyone says "weirdly warm."  And oh, did we talk about Hurricane Sandy? Tomorrow is will be 50 degrees and this is December in Minnesota. When people speak of these warm days there is an uneasy smile, a half-laugh, "guess there's an upside to global warming", or an almost wistful, "we should get out and enjoy this before the cold hits." In the back of our minds, these thoughts: How long before it just doesn't get cold here anymore? How long before, as NASA climatologist James Hanson predicts, the southern half of the United States becomes uninhabitable? How long before the corn scorches in Iowa? How long before Lake Superior's waters warm? Before they recede ten, fifteen, twenty feet? How long before we lose nearly half the Arctic?

Oh, that was last summer when we lost the Arctic.

Back in the real we'd like to link everyone to Bill McKibben brought's Do The Math tour to Minnesota a couple of nights ago. I was there. Ted Mann hall was packed and the event was long sold out. There were many people, but . . .   

When you were small and just falling asleep, did you ever have the sense that your boundaries blurred, that you were huge, vast, big as the earth? Bigger? A sudden sense of growing wildly beyond all possibility? I wish that was the way I felt the other night. Instead, I had the sense that this problem was that huge. I looked around at the people and we were so few, just a handful among the billions, and we were all perfectly ordinary. 

Not only that, but annoying too. Honestly? I hate the way I am sometimes, but some speakers (NOT McKibben) annoyed the hell out of me. They were right, but my heart sank. It was a little like being at a giant AA meeting where you know you're sick and doomed and, worst of all, you are in a place where you're going to hear a whole lot of platitudes. And then, horrifyingly, those platitudes will turn out to be true. And even worse -- in order to live with any decency at all, you're going to have to admit them into your own dark, anti-social, Minnesota-nice resistant, heart.  

It is true. All of us ordinary, annoying, scared, crazily hopeful people are called upon to fight, together, the greatest fight in human history. I know that sounds like a B movie trailer -- but like I said . . . true is true. The fight is simple: to keep a planet we can live on. The most important thing I took away was this: none of us really want to use fossil fuels. Given an alternative, hey, who wouldn't choose clean burning energy? But the fossil fuel industry -- giant and complex -- has blocked alternative energy. The fossil fuel industry, all of the oil companies -- Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell, etc., have decided that immediate profit is more important than a world.

We have to stop them.  

When Bill called upon us all to pressure our colleges and universities (not to mention any wealthy persons you know) to divest, to stop investing in fossil fuels, it was like a light went on. It worked for apartheid. Let's apply the pressure. If there isn't yet a group working to divest your college, form one, join one, write letters. Join Find out how. Let's take EVERYBODY'S money out of fossil fuels.  

We were out of time twenty years ago -- but hey -- check out Germany.  Check out China. They are going green anyway and we are behind the curve, just where big oil wants us. 

This is supposed to be a book blog -- and so here is the book part:  I want there to be a world where we ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and on and on, can lie back on a cool summer night, the windows open, myriad sighing crickets and unknown little bugs singing, a lamp, okay a solar lamp, casting a pool of radiance -- in which we are reading together.

Yours truly, Book People,


Join the movement at
Read Bill McKibben's key article on climate change: Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
Purchase Bill McKibben's book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet


Mari Mann commented on 03-Dec-2012 01:28 PM
And another sad but true fact: Bill McKibben and the others are usually "preaching to the choir". Those of us who already know that we are in the fight of our lives (one that we may have already lost) already belong to, go to Bill's talks, and do whatever we can to live small on the planet. Those who really need to hear and, more importantly, to act, don't go to the talks or join the fight. Sad but true.
Gary Deason commented on 03-Dec-2012 01:56 PM
A low point occurred in the second debate when Obama and Romney argued heatedly over who would allow the most drilling on public lands. Egad! How low can you go? Unfortunatley, lowest common denominator appears to drive the dynamics of the two-party system. American politics is deeply troubled when a presidential campaign cannot address the major issue facing the world for fear of losing votes or campaign dollars. Now that he's re-elected, we need to hold Obama to an agressive approach for mitigating climate change and appointment of a second-term energy secretary who will do the same.
Liz Heinecke commented on 03-Dec-2012 01:58 PM
I'm thrilled that you're joining fight against climate change. We have to keep this conversation going strong, since what we do over the next ten years will make all the difference in the world. Literally.
You might want to point kids at your bookstore to some of NASA's great resources, like and
I'm currently working with the Science Museum of MN as an Earth Ambassador for NASA. We'll be sponsoring an Earth Day/NASA Climate Day celebration at the museum on April 20th, 2013. Here's part of last year's program:
Please let me know if you or your bookstore would like to be involved in any way. Maybe your bookstore could have a table where kids could write a short poem about the earth they'd like to live in when they grow up(or something like that) at the event. We're open to ideas at this point. I'm trying to get more kids involved this year, and more art and writing mixed in with the science. Last year, the Will Steger Society and Creative KidStuff both had interactive tables, and people loved them!
If you're interested, please email me at or find me online at Thanks again for writing about climate change!
Linda Jackson commented on 03-Dec-2012 02:34 PM
To me the climate change is scary. I'm here in upstate New York where, by now, we should have a couple of feet of snow and cold temps. It's almost 50 degrees. Last winter wasn't even a winter. I wish people would worry about the planet more than they worry about how much money they can spend on things they don't need. Everyone I know is waiting for someone else to do something. If I knew what to do I'd start the ball rolling in this small town.
Peter Bradley commented on 03-Dec-2012 02:47 PM
I just read Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior" which makes a strong appeal via novel/fiction. I remember your saying, Louise, a few years back wryly that the two of you joked that you had the same 3,000 readers. Your new books will certainly will have a much, much broader reach! Congratulations!
Rebecca Powers commented on 03-Dec-2012 08:38 PM
I am going to print this and post it where my eyes rest when pondering my next move. Thank you.
Julia Nerbonne commented on 03-Dec-2012 09:36 PM
What I personally love about Bill McKibben is that he is perfectly ordinary, but doing extraordinary things with a clear voice. Gives me the power to believe in our clunky and imperfect movement. That it's ok to not know all the answers. That we can all be bold in our own way, and that grace will come in fits and starts. Check out btw. We are almost all volunteers. We need to pop like corn because there are creative ideas in every community.
Susan Feathers commented on 11-Dec-2012 07:48 PM
Today I attended the Gulf Coast Restoration Council meeting in Mobile AL Among the many private and citizen led groups that addressed Lisa Jackson and the council were Sierra Club and Audubon reps. Not are of the U.S. knows more keenly the vagaries of petroleum and its myriad forms than the Gulf of Mexico communities. They asked that the council strike a direct blow to the notion that we can regulate the oil industry in the Gulf; move beyond regulation to elimination, was their plea.

Louise, at the base of all your writing emanates a cultural perspective wedded to the landscape, an intact relationship with land, air, water, beauty...the indigenous consciousness of old is needed in its modern version. Keep writing, keep bringing us Ojibwe culture. It is medicine for the time...
JohnnyBranson commented on 18-Dec-2012 07:53 PM
Louise, thank you for your books and all the beauty you bring into this world. It's not that I don't care about the environment and I certainly support the quest to find and implement cleaner energy sources, but I still question the motives of some global warming alarmists, especially politicians with shady track records like Al Gore... not to mention the war-profiting Rothschilds who are also supporting this green movement. I think it is worth looking into the climategate emails or just looking at where people are deriving their financial backing. For instance, James Hansen is funded by George Soros. It certainly makes me raise an eyebrow. I think it's always good to look at things from multiple vantage points. Many thanks and congratulations on the book award!
Anonymous commented on 14-Jan-2013 06:51 AM
Climate has been ever changing since records began but the senseless wasting of our natural resources increases daily. There is much to be learned and keep writing encouraging us to think. I do admit I bought my pecan pie when I found Marie Callendar on sale for under five buck but hope you won't hold it against me. I do fear the wrath of that great Fisher man from Arkansas as he brought home many bags of gleaned pecans every Christmas.
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Why The Tar Sands?

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dear Bookish Ones,

Why would our inoffensive little bookstore, loving as we do to please our friends and customers, suddenly decide to show a move that will break your heart?   

H2Oil, the movie that we will be screening on October 27 and 28, at next door Kenwood Cafe, is honestly so upsetting that it is hard not to cry when you watch the trailer.  Why would we ask you to see such a film? Why would we become so compelled by this particular issue, when all we've ever done before is recommend books?

Why so crucial, why this urgency? Simple. There is nothing more important -- right now, right here.

The Tar Sands operation in Canada produces three to four times more carbon that regular oil extraction. Bill McKibben has called it a carbon bomb. Climatologists have termed the operation "game over" for our climate. The boreal forest is basically scraped away in this method of strip-oil-mining -- removing the lungs of the earth. As you watch the movie, you will understand the tragic impact of this project on Native people and communities. Billions of gallons of fresh water are used to steam the tar out of the sand, and the Keystone XL pipeline, a huge plan enlarging drastically on pipelines already built, could spill into our largest fossil water aquifer, which lies beneath South Dakota. Even now, living where we do, we are using 80% Tar Sands oil.

Wildly profitable oil companies don't want you to know this: the future belongs to those countries who conserve their fresh water and develop clean energies.    

At this moment, President Obama could just say no. He could stand up for our future -- stand up to big oil. He could keep his promise to heal the planet and reduce our dependence on oil in favor of clean energy. Obama could stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and send a powerful message to the world. He is expected to make his decision in mere weeks.

That is why it is so important to show H2Oil, to see this film, to tell your friends, and to pull up Bill McKibben's website and find out what is happening, and why, on November 6 -- it will be a historical day for the climate.

I don't have any books to talk about tonight. Friends, our existence is a narrow miracle. Can it really be that we'll make earth, this green joy, into a place where we cannot survive?


H2Oil Trailer


Bill McKibben and
Encircle the White House and Stop the Tar Sands on November 6!

Connect with people working on this issue:

Indigenous Environmental Network

Tar Sands Action (National)

Tar Sands Action (Minnesota)
Facebook: (National)

MN350 (Minnesota)

Michael M commented on 31-Oct-2011 04:31 PM
Thank you for showing the movie. It was as heartbreaking as you described. One action we can do right now is write to our senators. When asked what their stand is on the tar sands pipeline, both of our senators said they have not taken a position yet because
they have not heard from their constituents. So let's let them hear from us!
Paul commented on 18-Nov-2011 02:18 AM
How bad is it in North Dakota, now that they're getting oil out of shale there?
Sherry Bronson commented on 01-Dec-2011 08:14 AM
Thank you for posting the H2Oil Trailer. I sobbed. I don't believe 99% of the population has any idea what is really happening 'up there' myself included. It is heartbreaking beyond words. Windows of Clarity...yes. Another incredible book entitled "The
Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" by Thom Hartmann is an amazing treatment on the subject of the challenges facing our planet. Thank you again for taking a stand and speaking out on these existence-threatening issues.
sharon day commented on 01-Feb-2012 03:57 PM
Not only do we need to stop the tar sands pipeline,we also need to stop the Open Pit Mine that is being proposed for Lake Superior near the Bad River Reservation. The toxins from the mine will flow north into Lake Superior, damage the water and the manomin
(wild rice beds). It's so sad that our water is being attacked on so many fronts. Mi'ew and Migwetch for listening.
ann commented on 19-Nov-2012 01:31 AM
Presidential election is over and life is still complicated and reading can open thoughts of what has been and what will be. It is not bad in Williston Basin North Dakota, in fact life is good after a year of mildest winter and greatest grain and grass growing year Williams County has ever known. Internal combustive engine uses fuel at this time and we all need to waste less and walk more. Fracturing shale has produced more natural gas than can be sold and this may be a real problem as it is being flared bringing crude oil on line.
Nick bob commented on 13-Feb-2013 08:31 PM
earth has been there for us for a long time ago,thank you for show us this film. It's rely hurt inside know that the earth we stay has been damage by human doing. We lost a lot of thing that actually we don't have deserve to do it. I hope this movie make people realize the important of keeping the world.
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