The Round House

Title: The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Fiction or Non-Fiction: Fiction
Time period: 1980s
Culture Report Card (1-5 scale on cultural learning):  4
What communities does this book explore?  Native American
Short summary of the book: When a hate crime is committed which authority is responsible for investigating the crime? Even a simple question like this is complicated on Indian land and forces a family to try to solve the crime. Joe, the son of the victim, is a young teenager and the narrator of the story. Having the story told through a young teen’s prospective really supports the feeling of helplessness in the situation.   Overall this is a tragic story with a tragic end that really demonstrates the love of friends and family and how the law can sometimes fail us.
What cultural aspects are presented in the book? Some Native American cultural practices and legends are woven throughout the book and have interesting parallels to the story.
Does this book cover any historical events that shape this group’s identity? The book touches lightly on a number of events that shape Native American culture and experience in the US and made me want to read more about these areas including: boarding schools, tribal laws, disputes with the government and Louis Riel.  Just by reading this book I learned a lot more about some of the many issues facing and shaping Native American culture.
Does the book address the role of this cultural identity in America? How?  At the core of the story is the animosity between whites and Native Americans and how our current law structure creates glaring holes in the protection of people on tribal lands.  The book explores the complex relationship the tribe has with the Catholic church, Whites living on and near tribal land, and how tribal laws can and cannot be enforced. It also explores very lightly some of the other issues and concerns of this community but they are underdeveloped.
Criticism of the book:  Some felt there were too many characters and too little development of most of them.
Best for readers who: are interested in a tragic coming of age story that teaches about Native Americans.
What others say about this book: National Book Award Winner 2012

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