November 04, 2010

Minnesota's Native literary community

Telling "the big story":  Native voices are strong in Minnesota literature and theater

By Sheila ReganThere has been quite a bit of buzz recently about Native American writers, particularly with the landmark production of Native writer Louise Erdrich's Master Butchers Singing Club at the Guthrie Theater. In fact, the Native writing scene here in the Twin Cities has been going strong for quite some time due to a tight, supportive network of artists who encourage and support each other, combined with a number of institutions that have been fostering Native voices.

Later this month Louise Erdrich's sister, Heid, who writes in a number of different genres including poetry and plays, is having her play produced by Pangea World Theater at Intermedia Arts as part of the Indigenous Voices series. Heid wrote the play in 2005 and has been workshopping it for five years. The piece uses historical documents to create the dialogue about an Anishinabe man who went to Europe in the 1840s.

Heid said that there are both formal and informal aspects to the Native writing community locally. There are organized writing groups, such as the TGI Frybread writing group sponsored by The Loft, while at the same time there are personal relationships that Native writers build with each other. There are "literary friendships that support each other's work and have for many years," she said.

One great thing about the Twin Cities, she said, is that there are a number institutions—publication houses and theaters, for example—that are particularly supportive of Native writers. For example, Milkweed Editions has a new book out by Eric Gansworth called Extra Indians. Holy Cow Press and Coffee House Press also have typically supported Native writers, as have some local periodicals, such as the specifically Native Yellow Medicine Review and Loon Feather Press.
Comment:  For more on Louise Erdrich, see Louise Erdrich on Faces of America and Love Medicine Chosen as Big Read.

Below:  Birchbark Books. (Photo by Sheila Regan)

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