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In "The Night Watchman," Louise Erdrich Explores Her Native Roots

Louise Erdrich is a Native American author of 28 books, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children's books (photo by Hilary Abe)

(This conversation was originally broadcast on April 28, 2020)

Welcome to this archive edition of Midday. On our program today, Tom Hall's conversations with two acclaimed authors. Coming up a little later (and posted separately), he speaks with Madison Smartt Bell about his biography of the late American author Robert Stone.

But we begin with a conversation Tom had in March of 2020 with Louise Erdrich about her latest novel, The Night Watchman, which was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

From her debut novel, Love Medicine, published more than 35 years ago, through 16 subsequent novels, Erdrich has introduced readers to some of literature’s most fascinating and intriguing characters and dazzled her legions of fans with prose that is consistently distinctive and powerful.

Night Watchman Cover_HarperCollins.jpeg
Harper Collins Publishers

The Night Watchman takes place in rural North Dakota in the 1950s. It chronicles the efforts of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians to thwart the government’s attempt to terminate them, which is to say, end federal recognition of the tribe, and force them off their ancestral land. It’s based on the story of Ms. Erdrich’s grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, who led the Turtle Mountain Band’s fight against what the government called “emancipation.”

Describing the book as "a masterpiece," Tom notes that like the many other Louise Erdrich novels he's had the pleasure of encountering, this one is "transcendent, enchanting, and revelatory."

Tom spoke with the author on March 11th, 2020, when public understanding of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic was in its nascent stage.

On that day, Louise Erdrich was at the end of a 6-city book tour, still flying in full planes. She was in Lawrence, Kansas. Tom and Louise spoke in the afternoon, before her appearance that evening at Haskell Indian Nations University.

A reminder that because this conversation was pre-recorded, we can’t take your calls and comments.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Rob is Midday's senior producer.