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>  News Releases >   2009 >   April

Dartmouth 2009 Honorary Degree Recipient Louise Erdrich '76 (Doctor of Letters)

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 04/23/09 • Media Contact: Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

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Acclaimed author of novels, poetry and children’s books

Louise Erdrich
Credit: Paul Emmel Photography

Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. The daughter of a Native American (Ojibwe and French) mother and a German American father, she is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Her parents were school teachers, and Louise was the oldest of seven children.

She credits her mother, who hand-published her first writings, and her father, who paid her a nickel for every story, as well as her professors and supportive family for helping her become a writer.

She came to Dartmouth as a member of the Class of 1976, the first class at Dartmouth include women; and was among Native American students brought into Dartmouth through the College’s Native American Program.

Her first book, a collection of poems entitled Jacklight, was published in 1983, and her first novel, Love Medicine, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Her next book, The Beet Queen, was nominated for that prize and was named one of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. With her late husband, Michael Dorris, a Dartmouth professor, she co-authored The Crown of Columbus, a New York Times bestseller.

Erdrich has written fourteen books which have either been bestsellers or have have won prizes. She has won the O.Henry Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Heartland Prize for Fiction, and has been twice nominated for a National Book Award. She was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel A Plague of Doves. She has also won a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Erdrich’s books have been translated into more than twenty languages, and Love Medicine was recently chosen as a Big Read Book by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Erdrich owns a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis, Birchbark Books, and with her sister Heid Erdrich, Dartmouth Class of 1986, established the The Birchbark House Foundation for the publication of works in Native languages, particularly Ojibwe or Anishinabemowin. Louise is the mother of four daughters, one of whom, Aza, works at Left Bank Books in Hanover, and is a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2011.

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