Louise Erdrich becomes first American Indian woman to win National Book Award

Erdrich’s book, The Round House, is about violence against American Indian women, and about one young man who confronts that violence when it finds its way into his home.

According to CBS News,

A clearly delighted and surprised Erdrich, who’s part Ojibwe, spoke in her tribal tongue and then switched to English as she dedicated her fiction award to “the grace and endurance of native women.”

Only fifteen or so women have won the adult fiction prize since 1952, and Erdrich is the first American Indian woman to ever win it. “This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations,” she said. “Thank you for giving it a wider audience.”

When the short list was released last month, Indian Country Today wrote,

Erdrich’s story, though fictional, is especially timely considering recent news about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and revelations of rampant sexual abuse on at least one reserve. It’s the second in a trilogy begun in 2008 with The Plague of Doves (a Pulitzer Prize finalist, also published by HarperCollins), and unfolds in the aftermath of the rape of Geraldine Coutts on her North Dakota Ojibwe reservation in 1988. Her 13-year-old son, Joe, takes revenge into his own hands as he watches, helpless, while his mother succumbs to the emotional injuries wrought by trauma…. The murky jurisdiction—determining whether the attack has occurred on tribal, state or federal land—impedes investigation and prosecution in the novel, even as it reflects the reality faced by many victims of violence in Indian country.

Erdrich beat out beloved and decorated Junot Díaz, (This Is How You Lose Her) and Dave Eggers (A Hologram for the King), in what the New York Times called an “unusually competitive” field.


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Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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