CINCINNATI – Author Louise Erdrich, whose writings chronicle contemporary Native American life through characters representing its mix of heritages and cultures, was announced Sunday as the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s distinguished achievement award.
Erdrich was raised in North Dakota by an Ojibwe-French mother and a German-American father, and her works have reflected both sides of that heritage. With ties to North Dakota and Minnesota, Erdrich has said she lives in many places and is a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribal nation.
Erdrich’s novel “The Round House” told the story of a teenage boy’s effort to investigate an attack on his mother on a fictional North Dakota reservation and of his struggle to come to terms with a crime of violence against his mother. It won the 2012 National Book Award for fiction.
Her first novel, “Love Medicine,” won the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Erdrich’s “The Plague of Doves” was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. That novel explored racial discord, loss of land and changing fortunes in North Dakota.
The Dayton prizes are meant to recognize literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding, and the distinguished achievement award is given for body of work. The award is called the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award for the late U.S. diplomat who brokered the 1995 Dayton peace accords on Bosnia. Dayton Literary Peace Prize organizers announced the award first to The Associated Press.
Erdrich, whose works also include poetry, short stories, nonfiction and children’s books, said in a statement that she does not consider herself a “peaceful” writer.
“I am a troubled one, longing for peace,” Erdrich said.
Erdrich’s writings show the United States shares a history of violence, discrimination and neglect with other countries clashing over culture, religion and ancient territorial claims, said Sharon Rab, founder and co-chairwoman of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation.
“Her work reminds us that we are not observers but participants in the national history of the ownership of land and the taking of territory,” Rab said.
Erdrich said peace depends on clean water and clean energy for everyone.
“By allowing fossil fuel corporations to control earth’s climate and toxify pure water, we are visiting wars of scarcity upon our children, our generations,” she said in the statement. “Indigenous people are in the front lines because our lands are remote, vulnerable, and often energy rich.”
Erdrich, who will receive the award Nov. 9 in Dayton, told the AP through email that she is honoured to receive a prize that celebrates authors who write forcefully about the effects of violence.
“The prize sends a strong political signal, more crucial than ever at this historical moment when we are seeing, day by day, the horrific violence children suffer in war,” she wrote.
Previous winners include Studs Terkel, Elie Wiesel and Wendell Berry.