Learning from the Best: Louise Erdrich

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

By Jennifer L. Davidson


We all have our literary idols. Those authors who write the perfect story with such poetic ease, making it seem so simple, as if anyone could do it. For me, Louise Erdrich is one such author.

I first read Erdrich in college in a class taught by another one of my idols, Dr. Thomas Matchie. He had read all of her work and tried with all his might to get us to understand the complexities behind Erdrich's stories. I have to admit that I wasn't buying it at first. Many, if not all, of Erdrich's stories are set in North Dakota, and as someone who had lived there my entire life, I'd heard enough about the glorious plains and was ready to learn about far off lands with beaches and countless days of sun, not snow.

It wasn't until years after I left the NDSU campus, with a move to Arizona for eight years and then settling down in Minnesota, did I come to appreciate the place where I grew up. I discovered that I found beauty in flat land and being able to see for miles in the distance. I also began to appreciate the authors who wrote what they knew and used their talents to reach readers in a way that was superbly brilliant.

When I read anything from Erdrich, and I've read much of her work, I'm fixated on the characters she creates, the descriptions she uses to introduce them, and her courage to use formats I haven't seen before. I feel as though each word is chosen with care and she clearly writes from the heart. In my opinion, her storytelling skills far surpass those of other authors. In a nutshell, she gives me something to strive for in my own writing.

If you've never read her work, I urge you to do so. For more information about Erdrich and her titles, visit Birchbark Books and Native Arts, the independent bookstore she owns in Minneapolis, MN.

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