The Round House

Louise Erdrich

This is my first time reading a book by Lousie Erdrich, but certainly not my last. Erdrich’s talent is beyond measure and it is absolutely a gift to be able to interact with her work. Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a federally recognized tribe of the Anishinaabe.

The novel is set on a reservation in North Dakota, and narrated from the point of the view of 13 year old Joe, son of an Ojibwe lawyer, as he seeks justice for the brutal rape and attempted murder on his mother, Geraldine. With a unique cast of characters and phenomenal writing, we bear witness to what justice means for Joe and others. Finding justice for Indigenous women within the white colonial system is impossible, and this is a major theme highlighted in the book. Here is a quote from Erdrich: (source: NPR)

“There are several kinds of land on reservations. And all of these pieces of land have different entities who are in charge of enforcing laws on this land. So in this case, Geraldine does not know where her attacker raped her. She didn’t see, she doesn’t know. So in her case, it is very, very difficult to find justice because there’s no clear entity who is in charge of seeking justice for her. So in writing the book, the question was: If a tribal judge, someone who has spent his life in the law, cannot find justice for the woman he loves, where is justice? The book is also about the legacy of generations of injustice, and what comes of that. Because, of course, what comes of that is an individual needs to seek justice in their own way when they can’t find justice through the system. And that brings chaos.”

Although this book is about very heavy topics, Erdrich’s writing shines with the humor. I found myself chuckling w/ Joe and his friends, whether they’re quoting Star Trek or just shenanigans. Thanks to the Indiengous women in @erinanddanisbookclub for telling us that this is central to Native life, finding humor and joy in all aspects of life in spite of oppression. thanks for holding space for me to listen and deepen my appreciation and understanding of this book. Lastly, center Indigenous Women in your activism. Period.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
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