A poet and poetic novelist, Louise Erdrich learned to draw on her Ojibwa (also known as Chippewa) and German-immigrant heritage to create a wide-ranging chronicle of Native American and white experience in twentieth century North Dakota and Minnesota. She received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony in 1980 and from Dartmouth College and Yaddo Colony in 1981. Since she began to publish her fiction and poetry in the early 1980’s, her works have garnered high critical praise, and her novels have been best sellers as well.
Erdrich was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1982, the Pushcart Prize in 1983, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985-1986. Her first novel, Love Medicine, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984, and three stories that became chapters in that book were also honored: “The World’s Greatest Fishermen” won the 1982 Nelson Algren Fiction Award, “Scales” appeared in The Best American Short Stories 1983, and “Saint Marie” was chosen for Prize Stories 1985: The O. Henry Awards (1985). Two of the stories included in the novel Tracks also appeared in honorary anthologies: “Fleur” in Prize Stories 1987: The O. Henry Awards and “Snares” in The Best American Short Stories 1988. Erdrich’s 2001 novel The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, and her children’s book The Game of Silence (2005) received the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.
Erdrich’s works often focus on the struggles of Native Americans for personal, familial, and cultural survival. Her treatment of white characters and of characters of mixed Native American and white blood, however, reveals an empathetic understanding of the ways in which people of all races long for closer connection with one another and the land.