Life According to Louise Erdrich

By Hadley DesMeules


A headshot of Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich. Photo by Paul Emmel 

NEA Big Read author Louise Erdrich is an award-winning writer who integrates her family’s heritage, Native American traditions, and contemporary cultural issues into her storytelling. “It wasn’t a written book [that inspired me to write],” said Erdrich in a New York Times article. Rather, “it was stories. My family made life into stories.” Her writing ranges from fiction and poetry to children’s books and non-fiction literature. Erdrich’s first novel, Love Medicine, has been on our NEA Big Read shelf since 2008. This fall, Erdrich’s novel, The Round House, will join the NEA Big Read library, among 13 other new titles. Take a moment to dive into Erdrich’s world through this roundup of quotes that reveal the author’s thoughts on life, her writing process, and more.   

For more information on the 2017-18 NEA Big Read guidelines and application process, click here.

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. Louise Erdrich
What is wild? What is wilderness? What are dreams but an internal wilderness and what is desire but a wildness of the soul? Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay's Dance
Nobody has the perfect idea. Sometimes it does work. Sometimes there's something very good that comes out [of an idea]. I think it's important to give it the best try we can. Louise Erdrich
What I see in the book is an exquisite form of technology: one that doesn't require a power source and can be passed from hand to hand and lasts a lot longer than an electronic reader. Louise Erdrich
The greatest wisdom doesn't know itself. The richest plan is not to have one. Louise Erdrich
When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape. Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves
Life is made up of three kinds of people—those who live it, those afraid to, those in between. Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine
Decide first what is authentic, then go after it with all your heart. Louise Erdrich, Advice to Myself in Original Fire: Selected and New Poems
The point of books is to have way too many, but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment. Louise Erdrich, Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country
Once I realized that [my books] were being read, I still wrote as if I were writing in secret. That's how one has to write anyway—in secret. Louise Erdrich

Want to read more quotes? Here are some from author F. Scott Fitzgerald!