Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced that Louise Erdrich, author of such critically acclaimed novels as "Love Medicine," "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse," "The Plague of Doves" and her current novel, "The Round House," will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 5.
Billington said of Erdrich: "Throughout a remarkable string of virtuosic novels, Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has, exploring—in intimate and fearless ways—the myriad cultural challenges that indigenous and mixed-race Americans face. In this, 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. And yet, for all the bracing originality of her work, her fiction is deeply rooted in the American literary tradition."
The National Book Festival and the prize ceremony will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
"My grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, was educated in an Indian boarding school, became chairman of his tribe and testified before Congress on behalf of the Turtle Mountain people," said Erdrich. "My other grandfather, Ludwig Erdrich, came here penniless from Germany in 1920 and worked incessantly through many heartbreaks to raise his family, including my father. Of all their grandchildren, it would have surprised them most to think of me, skinny and tongue-tied, amounting to anything. But in addition to the Library of Congress, I have my parents Rita and Ralph, in whom my grandparents’ spirits are still vital, to thank for this recognition."
Erdrich is the third winner of the award. Previous winners are E.L. Doctorow (2014) and Don DeLillo (2013).
The annual Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction honors an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that—throughout long, consistently accomplished careers—have told us something new about the American experience.
Billington chose Erdrich based on the recommendation of a panel of distinguished authors and prominent literary critics.
Erdrich’s career spans more than 30 years. She has written 14 novels, starting with "Love Medicine" (1984). She has received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In addition to awards for her individual works, Erdrich is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts (1985), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas (2000) and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction (2014). Much of Erdrich’s writing focuses on Native American history and culture.
Born in Little Falls, Minn., in 1954, Karen Louise Erdrich was the first of seven children raised in Wahpeton, N.D., by a German-American father and a mother who is half French-American, half Ojibwe.
From 1972 to 1976, Erdrich studied English at Dartmouth College and was a member of its first co-ed class. In 1979, Erdrich earned a master of arts degree in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. She returned to Dartmouth in 2009 to receive an honorary doctorate in letters and to deliver the commencement address.
The Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction follows in the path of the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction, with the awardees John Grisham (2009), Isabel Allende (2010), Toni Morrison (2011) and Philip Roth (2012). In 2008, the Library presented Pulitzer-Prize winner Herman Wouk with a lifetime achievement award in the writing of fiction. That honor inspired the Library to grant subsequent fiction-writing awards.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.