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226 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1988
Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, she grew up mostly in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her parents taught at Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. She attended the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and received fellowships at the McDowell Colony and the Yaddo Colony. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991).
The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide. Some reviewers believed they saw in The Antelope Wife the anguish Erdrich must have felt as her marriage crumbled, but she has stated that she is unconscious of having mirrored any real-life events.
She is the author of four previous bestselling andaward-winning novels, including Love Medicine; The Beet Queen; Tracks; and The Bingo Palace. She also has written two collections of poetry, Jacklight, and Baptism of Desire. Her fiction has been honored by the National Book Critics Circle (1984) and The Los Angeles Times (1985), and has been translated into fourteen languages.
Several of her short stories have been selected for O. Henry awards and for inclusion in the annual Best American Short Story anthologies. The Blue Jay's Dance, a memoir of motherhood, was her first nonfiction work, and her children's book, Grandmother's Pigeon, has been published by Hyperion Press. She lives in Minnesota with her children, who help her run a small independent bookstore called The Birchbark.
A tribe of chicken-scratch that can be scattered by a wind, diminished to ashes by one struck match.You wouldn't make a Disney movie out of genocide, would you? Then why does Pocahontas exist? I was only recently led to this argument by the Internet, and it is yet another of many that I wished I had come across much, much, much earlier.
New devils require new gods.It is a matter of my childhood having been steeped in so much horseshit without a single living being to attest to the contrary. Girl Scout like Indian Maidens of my elementary years, dreamcatchers bought in dollar stores, a Wendigo as a particular stirring episode in a horror-themed television show without a hint of the word Algonquian, or Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Cree, Naskapi, Innu. Compromised as these words are by colonial tongue, you cannot grasp the privileged ignorance of indoctrination without the language that inherently exposes the lie; you cannot break your belief without reasoning why.
"You must think of their unyielding surfaces as helpful," he offered. "God sometimes enters the soul through the humblest parts of our anatomies, if they are sensitized to suffering."A piece of paper declares, if you stray here and attempt to live, we have the right to kill you. A piece of paper insinuates, if your biology proves incompatible with our lifestyles, we are not required to heal you. A forest falls from ocean to ocean to provide for many pieces of paper, birthed by colonial mindset, maintained by conqueror's brainwashing, proven by death and destruction, famine and rape, rotting of the bone and rat race of the mind. To fight is to become a monster by strength of belief, to survive is to self-efface by poison of thought, to suffer is a given. If that is not magic, I don't know what is.
"A god who enters through the rear door," I countered, "is no better than a thief."
They were moving. It was as old Nanapush had said when we sat around the stove. As a young man, he had guided a buffalo expedition for whites. He said the animals understood what was happening, how they were dwindling. He said that when the smoke cleared and the hulks lay scattered everywhere, a day's worth of shooting for only the tongues and hides, the beasts that survived grew strange and unusual. They lost their minds. They bucked, screamed and stamped, tossed the carcasses and grazed on flesh. They tried their best to cripple one another, to fall or die. They tried suicide. They tried to do away with their young. They knew they were going, saw their end. He said while the whites all slept through the terrible night he kept watch, that the groaning never stopped, that the plains below him was alive, a sea turned against itself, and when the thunder came, then and only then, did the madness cease. He saw their spirits slip between the lightning sheets.
I saw the same. I saw the people I had wrapped, the influenza and consumption dead whose hands I had folded. They traveled, lame and bent, with chests darkened from the blood they coughed out of their lungs, filing forward and gathering, taking a different road. A new road. I saw them dragging one another in slings and litters. I saw their unborn children hanging limp or strapped to their backs, or pushed along in front hoping to get the best place when the great shining doors, beaten of air and gold, swung open on soundless oiled fretwork to admit them all.
Christ was there, of course, dressed in glowing white.
"What shall I do now?" I asked. "I've brought You so many souls!"
And He said to me, gently: