E: Louise Erdrich (Blogging from A-Z)

Today is day 5 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theE
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s E word: Louise Erdrich


What I read 
I went through an Erdrich phase after I started working at the bookstore, which means I was a little obsessed. I read her books, knew about Beet Queenher kids, her husband, and her bookstore.  The first novel I read was The Beet Queen, followed by Love Medicine, which is the flip flop of their release date. Every now and then, I’d pick up another book: Tracks, The Bingo Palace. I also read two of her husband’s books, Yellow Raft in Blue Water (fiction) and The Broken Cord (non-fiction). And of course I read the novel they co-wrote, The Crown of Columbus.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit I had to follow the narrative carefully because it zig-zagged through time and characters like a honeybee in a clover patch. And while I know it’s not the case, for some reason when I think of Erdrich’s novels, it’s always summertime. (Have you ever done that? Placed your memory of a book square in a season, whether it’s accurate or not?)

I loved the idea of two married writers spinning similar tales with themes more alike than different. Until they weren’t and they didn’t–then they were like the rest of us who couldn’t get the idea of marriage straight.

It’s probably very sad that the little I know about contemporary Native Americans comes from Erdrich’s novels, but thank her muse that she’s brought that world to light. The poverty we sometimes saw was stark and real, but more often the tiny houses or trailers stuffed with tchotchkes were more like my Great Aunt Alice’s house than not. Maybe we weren’t so different after all. The Kapshaws, Nanapushs, and Morriseys weave a tangled web of family love, hate, confusion, and abuse–but somehow, somehow there was also belonging and a kind of ferocious energy.

What I lived
Our backyard had a tree fort and a huge sandbox and what we called a “monkey swing”, a round wooden seat on a rope that swung like a tire swing. A tree shaded nearly the whole yard, but there was still some sun left for the deck and growing raspberries behind the garage.

In summer, there was always a kiddie pool out–even when the kids were technically too old for a kiddie pool. Because then the pool was for filling squirt guns and pails good for water fights. Our little Bischon mix Muffy (aka Little Miss Muffet) tried to jump on the kids as they swooped past on the swing, but could never quite make it. She was in and out of the pool almost as much as the kids.

The boys had their games with swords and bats, a superman mask and cape–all that tough talk coming from skinny-legged heroes with striped tube socks pulled up to knobby knees.  The girls pushed stuffed animals and dolls in bitty strollers, usually shaded by a plastic umbrella, a patent leather purse slung over their shoulders, tres chic four-year-olds.

There was belonging and a sweet kind of love that was real.

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