November 15, 2012

Erdrich wins National Book Award

Novel About Racial Injustice Wins National Book Award

By Leslie KaufmanBeating out an unusually competitive field, Louise Erdrich won the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday night for “The Round House,” a novel about a teenage boy’s effort to investigate an attack on his mother on a North Dakota reservation, and his struggle to come to terms with the violence in their culture.

Ms. Erdrich accepted the award in part in her Native American language. She said she wanted to acknowledge “the grace and endurance of native women.”

She added: “This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations. Thank you for giving it a wider audience.”

The book was published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins. Ms. Erdrich is the author of 14 novels, including “Love Medicine,” which was published in 1984.
2012 National Book Award Winner, Fiction

By Mary Beth KeaneMary Beth Keane: Congratulations on being named a Fiction Finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. I know this must be a busy time for you, so many thanks in advance for doing this. How’d you learn you’d been named a Finalist and what was your first response?

Louise Erdrich: I am on a book tour and was just leaving Nashville, where I'd been at Ann Patchett's wonderful Parnassus Books. Jane Beirn, my publicist at HarperCollins, called me. I have worked with Jane since Love Medicine in 1984, so I know every nuance of her phone voice. I immediately knew this was something really, really good. The first call I made was to my parents. It was early in the morning but I knew they'd be awake.

MBK: Where did you begin The Round House? What was the seed idea?

LE: The immense difficulty of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence on reservations has haunted me for many years, but I didn't know how to tell the story. I wanted to write it as a suspense novel. How else to include jurisdictional complexity? I didn't want to bore myself. When my main character, Joe, started talking, I knew I had been waiting for him. A writer's gift. Even now I miss writing in his voice and miss working on this book.
Comment:  For more on Louise Erdrich, see Louise Erdrich's Birchbark Books and Alexie and Erdrich Deserve Nobel Prizes.

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