The prize recognizes writers with "unique, enduring voices" whose work centers on the American experience.
“Throughout a remarkable string of virtuosic novels, Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has, exploring – in intimate and fearless ways – the myriad cultural challenges that indigenous and mixed-race Americans face," said James Billington, Librarian of Congress, in a statement.
"Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dreamworld of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day. And yet, for all the bracing originality of her work, her fiction is deeply rooted in the American literary tradition.”
Over a three decade-long career, Ms. Erdrich has written 14 novels as well as poetry, children's books, short stories, and nonfiction. Her novels include “Love Medicine,” “The Plague of Doves,” “The Beet Queen,” "Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country," and her most recent book, “The Round House,” for which she won the National Book Award in 2012.
Erdrich, who was born in Little Falls, Minn., in 1954, to a German-American father and a mother who is half Ojibwe, told the New York Times that the recognition felt like “an out of body experience.”
“It seems that these awards are given to a writer entirely different from the person I am – ordinary and firmly fixed,” she told the Times. “Given the life I lead, it is surprising these books got written. Maybe I owe it all to my first job – hoeing sugar beets. I stare at lines of words all day and chop out the ones that suck life from the rest of the sentence. Eventually all those rows add up.”
Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa but said that she never set out to write about the American experience per se, or about her own mixed background. Instead, she told the Times, she simply wanted to write compelling stories.
“I don’t write from a compulsion to provide for the reader a Native American, Great Plains, or for that matter German-American experience,” she said. “I write narratives that compel me, using language that reverberates for me.”
She will be given the award at the 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Sept. 5.