Apparently I never got around to reading The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Maybe the fact that she had inscribed a copy for me created the illusion that I had taken in the words, but then my book group chose this book. I pulled it off my bookshelf and set it on the table figuring a quick peek would be enough to remember the story. As our meeting approached, I finally picked it up and realized that I had no idea what it was about. It’s not that I forgot. I’d just forgotten to read it.
Wow, how glad I was that I was brought round to the Round House a mere seven years after its publication. The first sentence, “Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation,” was indicative of my reaction to this book. I attacked it. Maybe it attacked me, but I was captured within the very trauma experienced by the mother, the family and community that surrounded her, and the larger reality of how so little has changed for people whose history was written by men and women who profited by creating false realities.
As with a lot of nonfiction The Round House, based as it is on a modern Native Indian family living on a reservation, brings to the forefront some truths about the awful realities and conditions faced by the majority of American Indians, past and present.
Readers should be captivated and upset, horrified actually, by this story. A reader might want to pass judgement on the actions of the characters, yet the reactions of the characters to the situations, agreeable or not, justifiable or not, legal or not, cannot be separated from history.
The Round House is a story that I will not forget-well, the characters’ names maybe and some of the action-but never the feeling that surrounded my conscience.
The Afterward in this book details some facts of which few outside of Indian communities are aware. Few people know that Native Women along the Northern American and Canadian border are being murdered and/or disappearing. Newsworthy? Why bother? Who cares?
Given the current attitudes that seem to be reverting to hate and discrimination, it is frightening to read Erdrich’s story and realize that gains and protections for women and minorities are rapidly being whittled and legislated away. The continuation of lies and covering up of facts is a purposeful act. Not knowing, caring or acting is a purposeful act. To read Erdrich’s book and remain unaffected and unchallenged is testimony to the strength of her words.
I have a shelf of Erdrich’s books and all are fascinating, but this one affected me in a way the others hadn’t. Maybe it’s just too close to the reality of so many. Me Too.