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Birchbark Blog

Ten Years of Books

Louise Erdrich - Tuesday, June 08, 2010
This June will mark the TEN YEAR anniversary of Birchbark Books.  I just spent a rainy morning in the bookstore.  It feels like a hundred years and no time at all; it feels like the most unlikely place in the world and the most inevitable; it feels like everywhere in the world and it feels like home.   

The story of our store is on the website -- how we leased the space and took thirteen layers of floor and dentist office equipment.  Check it!

We started out with books culled from BOOKMAN, our local book distributor.  Bookman was absorbed by Ingram and its funky/lovely warehouse turned into Lofts.  Ten years ago, I went there with a shopping cart and loaded the cart, hand picking the likely titles from dim piles, riding up and down a freight elevator, checking out at the end with Bookman clerks including one who was and became the terrific writer Kate DiCamillo.  We put the books on the shelves and tried to figure out how to sell them.  We weren't very good at it.   Denny Magers of Magers and Quinn let me buy some books from him.  I set out books from my own library -- at the time we had a used/new mixture.   

Thank god I kept my day job and the asema that was placed in the walls kept on attracting people who understood that the art of bookselling is unlike any other business.  It is a way of life.  It is an odd and mundane passion.

Books must contain mysteriously the whole of human experience. -- yet sometimes one can hardly believe that there remains yet a new book to be written.  

I just fell in love all over with a big stack of books that have never been written before.  (The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison, and More Remarkable Trees, and everything by Ha Jin). Or books I haven't read yet. (Bleak House)  Or books that made me laugh until I got sick.  (Awkward Family Photos).

I'll write more all summer about bookstore life.  I am just absorbing the fact that we are still here.  Thank you to our devoted customers and delighted newcomers!  Thank you tribal schools and tribal colleges, thank you local schools and teachers.  Thank you everyone who has passed through the blue door.

Louise Erdrich
Monte commented on 09-Jun-2010 03:25 PM
Happy belated birthday! I really enjoy your work from the time it was introduced to me at Haskell Indian Nations University, to my native literature class at Oklahoma University and now as an instructor at the College of the Muscogee Nation your stories are still a topic of discussion. Mvto!
Stanley Rosenberg commented on 10-Jun-2010 04:46 PM
Recently read the episode of Markus's near death (The Master Butcher's Singing Club)- Wow! can't remember ever falling into pages like I did. Beatifully expositioned; loved the way the fight of Cyprian and Fidelis leads to their attempts at rescue. So well done
Barbara Zeller commented on 13-Jun-2010 03:46 PM
I found your store when we went to the Lake of the Isles to walk our dogs. There was a sign in the window that announced it would soon be opening. I tried to peer into the windows. I came back often after that until I found it open. And through the years, I have been a frequent visitor. My stack of books to read grew with all your recommendations posted on the shelves. My collection of Native American art and jewlery has grown. On my birthday every year I come to your store and treat myself to books and art and whatever I fancy on that day -- then spend the rest of the year paying down my credit card :-). A shy, quiet reader, I tend to slip in and out without saying much, appreciating the friendliness of the staff, the chair in the corner, and the varied selection of books to peruse. I so love this little store, the readings you have there, and your book club events. And of course, your books. First and foremost, the stories, poems, and essays you have given your readers over the years. Thank you for having this store. I wish you many more years of successful book selling!
Deborah Farquhar commented on 14-Jun-2010 10:31 AM
I treasure the books you have written, Ms. Erdrich--they are among my very favorite. I did not major in English (Art History), but my daughter is an English Honors student at George Mason University (she is an English major with a minor in Anthropology). Mason has a wonderful English Department, and should have a larger Anthropology Department. Her honors thesis won an award as the "outstanding honors thesis" in the university's "Writing Across the Curriculum" program; it's title is "The Female Father: Trickster, Gender and Identity in The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse." I hope it is worthy of your book, and we send you best wishes.
I hope we can visit Birchbark one day!
Andrea Drummond commented on 15-Jun-2010 02:11 PM
Louise, I hope to someday be able to visit your bookstore. You are my absolute favorite author in the world and I would LOVE to visit a place you hold so dear. And if you happened to be there too it would be even more awesome. :)
ann commented on 27-Jun-2010 10:04 AM
You are going to love every year more. Birthdays come and go
and June is the season that makes it a joy being here in Dakota.
I have read your books for years and now started to read writings by
some of your family, looking forward to Denise Lajomidierre' new book to come out in December. Talented group. Keep up the great work..
lia Ruttan commented on 14-Jul-2010 05:24 PM
Last year I read all but one or two of your books in 6 months as they all made complete sense to me. When my father died in thew twin cities almost two years ago, travlelling in from Canada, I had nothing for smudging but went to you store and thankfully you had sage there. I am working on a book from work with Elders in northern community I have lived and worked with for years. I was amazed and then not amazed because many of the stories you write about are also their stories- for instance at Christmas a 94 year old woman, laughing, told me about two Metis brothers who were her husbands- well, one was her husband and the other was her husband when the first one was travelling, but they all lived together. I am going to northern Minnesota (near Hegman - the cover of your islands book)on Monday so looked at the islands book and yup, old Cree man talking about running ninety miles in one day to see his mother and using/reusing one shell to shoot four moose. Lia Ruttan

david miller commented on 15-Jul-2010 09:32 PM
From New Zealand just read 'the plague of doves' , what a story and what a talent , really enjoyed it and thank you for the experience !
E.Sean StandingBear commented on 13-Aug-2010 07:13 AM
Stories of starting a business are useful and interesting to me. I was directed here by K. Kimball in NYC. I'll keep reading posts at this blog and someday visit the store.

Thank You,

E.Sean StandingBear | Standingbear Studios
Sandra commented on 11-Sep-2010 10:01 AM
My plans are to visit your bookstore soon. I have read 5 of your books and am currently reading Blue Jay. As a frustrated writer I am motivated and encouraged by your books to use my writing skills and share my story.
Lisa commented on 14-Jan-2011 08:44 PM
Today I caught up--with two recent titles purchased by Christmas gift card at my favorite,,, Borders, (of all places--I live very far away from Minnesota)--"The Red Convertible" in paperback and "Shadow Tag" in hardcover--before the new paperback arrives in February. I found them in a row with a few other Louise Erdrich paperbacks in stock on the store shelves in fiction! They are present!
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