Shelf-Promotion: Famed Novelist Louise Erdrich’s Bookstore Stocks Great Native Books
By Stephanie Woodard
The cozy store offers lots of spots where shoppers can enjoy a rich array of images and experiences. Kids can climb into a toy-filled, tree house–like loft, while adults curl up and read in sunny corners. If you want absolution for anything, take a seat in the confessional, which Erdrich has renamed “the forgiveness booth.”
“You can be absolved right away there without having to say thousands of Hail Marys,” she says. “It’s about taking away shame. Of course, it’s the Catholic Church that most needs to be forgiven for what it did to Native people in the name of assimilation.”
The store attracts clients from the Minneapolis Native community, reservations across the country and tourists from all over the globe. “They are attracted by Louise’s reputation,” says store manager Susan White. “She is truly beloved.” Customers know they will find books that are tasteful and accurate, White adds. They might even run into the novelist at the store, though Erdrich says her schedule is “unpredictable.”
The store specializes in Native writers and subjects in several categories: fiction and poetry; memoir and biography; Native studies; indigenous-language books and instructional materials primarily in Dakota, Lakota and Ojibwe; picture books for children; and young-adult volumes. It’s a small selection, tucked into every nook and cranny of the 850-square-foot store, but a fine one. “People come here to feel there’s a person behind what’s on our shelves,” says Erdrich. The store’s book buyer, Nathan Pederson, explains that deciding what to offer is a “happy science.” He sifts through data, figuring out what’s selling, but also trying to ensure that customers will come across items they never knew they needed.