Louise Erdrich, author of the novels "Love Medicine" and "The Round
House," will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction
(photo by Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times)
The prize, which will be awarded during the National Book Festival
on Sept. 5, is given to writers with "unique, enduring voices" whose
work addresses the American experience. Past winners include John
Grisham, Toni Morrison and E.L. Doctorow.
Ms. Erdrich was born in Little Falls, Minn., in 1954, to a German-American
father and a mother who is half Ojibwe. In a career that covers
more than three decades, she has written 14 novels, as well as poetry,
children's books, short stories and nonfiction.
"Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as
no contemporary American novelist ever has," James H. Billington,
the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement announcing the prize.
"Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet
unsentimental, connecting a dreamworld of Ojibwe legend to stark
realities of the modern-day."
In an email interview, Ms. Erdrich, who has won the National
Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, said such
recognition felt like "an out of body experience."
"It seems that these awards are given to a writer entirely different
from the person I am ordinary and firmly fixed," she wrote.
"Given the life I lead, it is surprising these books got written.
Maybe I owe it all to my first job hoeing sugar beets. I
stare at lines of words all day and chop out the ones that suck
life from the rest of the sentence. Eventually all those rows add
Ms. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa,
said that she never set out to write about the American experience
or her own mixed heritage, and simply aimed to write compelling
"I don't write from a compulsion to provide for the reader a
Native American, Great Plains, or for that matter German-American
experience," she said. "I write narratives that compel me, using
language that reverberates for me."