Drive around the Lake of the Isles (because it’s a lake with an island in it–maybe two. I only saw one, but I was more worried about avoiding a car accident than counting the islands) and through a beautiful neighborhood in Minneapolis, you will come upon a small, but beautiful, bookstore.
This store is owned by award winning author Louise Erdrich. She, in the recent past, was included in the elite group of influential people who have been in contention for the Pulitzer Prize.
Louise Erdrich is a Native American, specifically the Ojibway tribe. Her novels and other written works are based on her heritage, but it is not solely about the plight of the Native Americans. I’m not trying to belittle the history of the Native American people. I know their history is so sad, and it is uplifting to experience the beauty of the people and see them overcome. And that is Louise Erdrich.
Her bookstore, Birchbark Books, is an extension of her personal work. Although small, this store is filled to overflowing with a beautiful selection of children’s books, young adult books, adult fiction, and nonfiction books. Each selection highlights the Native American literature but is not limited to it. You will find Charles Dickens in the midst of Ojibway history or a book of Dakota poetry beside a book regarding raising teens.
Susan, the manager, showed me around the store while pointing out where to find the Native American literature in that section, and she explained to me that everything they had was based on the truth. In her words, “You won’t find any New Age.” That was so refreshing.
That statement alone made me want to come back.
The store is so cozy with wood flooring, the children’s corn or red bookshelves, Native American art, and birch accents everywhere. Most of the decorative art is from Louise’s personal collection. Artistic prints are for sale in the store as well as a handful of handcrafted items from jewelry to jelly.
Birchbark Books’ pal is Dharma who is the most beautiful black mutt you will ever meet. Her whole demeanor is quietness and gentleness. JackJack who is screamingly petrified of dogs didn’t once freak out. He even touched her. I’m telling you she is an amazing animal.
- Birchbark Books is not a “children’s” bookstore (not like Wild Rumpus or The Red Balloon Bookshop), but they cater to children so well. At least one fourth of the store is dedicated to children. And by that I do not mean just books. Oh, yes, they have an eclectic selection of children’s books. Susan assured me that the books that she buys are quality built because “a book is made to last.”
- Susan was so personable and thoughtful and completely engaging. I learned so much from her and not once did I feel stupid for not knowing. She was so willing to invite me to be curious and so passionate about the Native people of this country.
- The store doesn’t muffle loud noises well, aka a very enthusiastic 3 year old playing make believe. Even when he wasn’t being that loud–because believe me, he can be a lot louder. But fortunately for us, we had the option to be quiet or play in the hobbit hole. It worked out well.
- There was a very polite sign posted for guests to read about not taking the names of titles to purchase the books online. The sign is done in good taste. But it’s so sad that needs to be posted. Some of my favorite places in the world (as you know) are bookstores. So I would like to raise my voice for the small bookstore and say, “Buy local!” I believe it so much that I unknowingly spent $40 with only a small gasp!