Entry updated 16 May 2022. Tagged: Author.
(1954- ) US author whose many novels, most set in or adjacent to Ojibwe/Chippewa country in North Dakota, have strongly and rightly shaped the presentation of Native American experience over the past century of life under the complex and oppressive surveillance of a guilt-ridden but compulsively exploitive conqueror civilization. Most of her fiction, beginning with Love Medicine (coll of linked stories 1984; exp 1993), have treated with a reticent literalness some aspects of the behaviour and belief structure of her world – her background is European/Ojibwe – that might argue for the whole of her oeuvre as being treatable in terms of Fantastika. Indeed one of her Ojibwe tales, The Antelope Wife (1998), received a World Fantasy Award. This view might seem, however, to unbalance her passionate funambular comprehensiveness; though the loose Justice Trilogy sequence beginning with The Plague of Doves (2008) is suffused with what might be described, almost entirely fittingly, as the supernatural.
Erdrich is of specific sf interest for Future Home of the Living God (2017), which is set in an almost snowless Near Future Dystopian America where Climate Change and Ecological vandalism seem to have contributed to a savage decline in fertility throughout all the species home to this planet, with Homo sapiens suffering in particular; the huge number of failed human births and dysfunctional Mutations has in fact led to an argument that Evolution has somehow been reversed (see Devolution). Faced with these challenges, the American government has turned even more right-wing, and has applied theological sanctions against women – the novel has clear affinities with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985) – who are subject to "gravid female detention" if they are found to be pregnant (see Religion; Sex; Women in SF). The protagonist, who has been betrayed into government hands, must attempt to escape. Some narrative dis-ease attends this move into the didactic, but a passionate directness survives, and is if anything intensified in The Sentence (2021), where a fake Mysterious Stranger – the ghost of a white woman who had falsely claimed indigenous ancestry – haunts a library, where she comes to represent the burden of the unredeemed history of America as exposed by the Covid Pandemic, which opens wounds everywhere. [JC]
Karen Louise Erdrich
born Little Falls, Minnesota: 7 June 1954
- The Antelope Wife (New York: HarperFlamingo, 1998) [Ojibwe: hb/Joe Geshick]
- The Painted Drum (New York: HarperCollins, 2005) [Ojibwe: hb/]
- The Plague of Doves (New York: HarperCollins, 2008) [Justice Trilogy: hb/Archie Ferguson]
- The Rounds House (New York: HarperCollins/Harper, 2012) [Justice Trilogy: hb/Oliver Munday]
- LaRose (New York: HarperCollins/Harper, 2016) [Justice Trilogy: hb/Aza Erdrich]
- Future Home of the Living God (New York: HarperCollins/Harper, 2017) [hb/Asa Erdrich]
- The Sentence (New York: HarperCollins/Harper, 2021) [hb/]
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