Linda LeGarde Grover and The Dance Boots
Linda LeGarde Grover’s collection of short stories, The Dance Boots, illustrates the lives of a complex set of Ojibwe characters. Sometimes funny, often joyous, and occasionally containing heartbreaking moments, the stories are set on a fictional Indian Reservation in Minnesota. She will read and sign books at 2 pm on Dec. 4 in the Tweed Museum of Art.
The action in The Dance Boots takes place over the last century and tells the stories of families during the time of government boarding schools for American Indians. Even though the stories stand alone, they are linked. “It’s the same circle of people, the same family and acquaintances,” said Grover. “Sometimes the same person appears in more than one story at different ages.”
The book, which received the celebrated Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction from the University of Georgia Press in 2009, spans several generations and is rich in the details of tribe and culture. The reader feels the influence of the woods, lakes, and streams of Minnesota and the jarring shift into a relentlessly changing world.
The title story, “The Dance Books,” is important to Grover. “Powwow dancing is fun but it is also spiritual, religious, and prayerful. Dance boots are sacred things.” While the story is not autobiographical, Grover’s aunt was an Ojibwe traditional dancer and like the aunt in the story, she passed on her dance boots to Grover. “My aunt loved dancing and hoped our ways would continue. It means a lot to me that I wear her boots when I dance, but I’m not nearly as good as she was.”
The Dance Boots has received critical acclaim and is already in its second printing. "It's been reviewed by Publishers Weekly, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Duluth newspapers,” said Grover. “My favorite review was in MNartists.org by Connie Wanek. She called attention to how lucky we feel to be Indian and that the book ends on 'Bingo night, when even to lose, or to be lost, is lucky.' "
Grover is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at UMD. She said, “My research creeps into my fiction writing.” Grover’s academic research centers around the impact of boarding schools on American Indian culture and “world view” inclusiveness in education and the workplace. Grover is the author of “From Assimilation to Termination: Vermilion Lake Indian School” published in Minnesota History magazine, the journal of the Minnesota Historical Society.
Grover is a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in northern Minnesota. She writes a monthly column for the Duluth Budgeteer newspaper. She co-authored A Childhood in Minnesota: Exploring the Lives of Ojibwe and Immigrant Families, 1880–1920 and has written a poetry chapbook, The Indian at Indian School.
Written by Cheryl Reitan.