Louise Erdrich Wins Library of Congress American Fiction Prize

Prize winning author Louise Erdrich has been awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The award recognizes writers with “unique, enduring voices” whose work deals with the American experience. Past winners include John Grisham, Toni Morrison, EL Doctorow. Erdrich is the author of 14 novels, numerous volumes of poetry, nonfiction and childrens books including Love Medicine, The Round House and Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country. She is also the owner of magical independent bookstore, Birchbark Books and Native Arts in Minneapolis, Minn. Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, said “I don’t write from a compulsion to provide for the reader a Native American, Great Plains, or for that matter German-American experience,” she said. “I write narratives that compel me, using language that reverberates for me.”

She will receive this award at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., on September 5. This festival was started in 2001, and from 30,000 people it has grown to over 200,000 featuring authors, illustrators, and poets. Librarians from across the country are invited each year to represent their states at the Festival. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and commercial sponsors such as Target and AT&T have provided funding (2012).

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said that Erdrich “has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has. Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dream world of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day.”

In recent email interview, Ms. Erdrich, who has won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, said such recognition felt like “an out of body experience.” “It seems that these awards are given to a writer entirely different from the person I am — ordinary and firmly fixed,” she wrote. “Given the life I lead, it is surprising these books got written. Maybe I owe it all to my first job — hoeing sugar beets. I stare at lines of words all day and chop out the ones that suck life from the rest of the sentence. Eventually all those rows add up.”

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