The New York Times books section today featured a lovely profile by J. D. Biersdorfer of Birchbark Books & Native Arts, the Minneapolis bookstore owned by National Book Award-winning writer Louise Erdrich which provides indigenous-language guides, literature and crafts, alongside the latest best sellers.
The store itself—which Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, opened with her daughters back in 2000—sounds like a marvel of eccentricity, warmth, and dedicated community-engagement, with a hand-crafted canoe suspended from the ceiling, a toy-filled upstairs play area made of resurrected birch trees, and a wealth of instruction materials on indigenous languages and culture.
Though Erdrich, who has a new novel called The Night Watchman scheduled for spring, mostly leaves day-to-day operations up to her management team, the author still contributes to Birchbark’s handwritten recommendations, which are taped to shelves all over the store.
“That’s the thing about bookstores,” she said to the Times. “Bookselling becomes a way of life and something you do as a human being.”