My lovely cousin, who is doing a bike tour in South America, recommended I check out the author Louise Erdrich. Following her recommendation I searched Amazon for my potential next ebook buy and realized I had already purchased one of the her books. My cousin and I seem to have very similar taste in books 🙂
“The Round House” was a magnificent book, and really hit home with me. I was fortunate enough to go to school in New Mexico, which is home to the largest reservation in the U.S. (Navajo Nation). Thanks to living in New Mexico I was exposed to the complicated nature of the sovereignty of reservations and the laws that go with it. One of the most startling things I learned, besides the high rates of obesity and diabetes within the Native American population, were the high rates of violence against women on reservations. Even more disconcerting is how much of it is perpetuated by white men. There is an unfortunate loophole where if a white man sexually assaults a tribal woman on reservation land, he can (almost) always get away with it. The tribe doesn’t have jurisdiction over him. The local authorities that are not tribal police, have no jurisdiction on tribal land where the crime is most often committed. So the case falls into the hands of the FBI, where it is almost always forgotten. Indigenous women never get justice.
I attended a TEDxABQ Women event back in 2013 and will always remember the poem that was written and recited by this indigenous woman (to my great dismay I don’t remember her name and can’t seem to locate her information online). Her poem was centered on violence against women like her, and one of her most striking lines was “For a Native woman it’s not a matter of if you will get raped, it is a matter of when.”
Louise Erdrich did fantastic job of displaying the consequences this sort of violence has for not only the victim, but the family as a whole. Sexual violence is a tool used by the patriarchy to control women and the psychological ramifications are not something one can just get over (“Vagina” by Naomi Wolf is a good book to read in regards to the effects of sexual assault).
I felt the choice of experiencing this story through the eyes of Joe, rather than his mother, to be very well chosen. Sexual violence against women is not something that just effects them, it can negatively impact all who are connected to the woman who was the unfortunate victim. I also felt that hearing the state of his mom after the rape through his eyes was all the more poignant.
Joe is a very lovable character, and incredibly real. He isn’t perfect, he is reckless, he is sometimes an awkward teenage boy, he does things he shouldn’t. At the same time though, you feel how much he loves his parents and his friends. You feel him wanting to be good and to support his family however he can, while also being self-preserving.
The author did an amazing job constructing all the characters and interweaving them all together. Every single character was their own entity but they all somehow related back to each other. No character was created without connecting back to the bigger picture, no matter how small. You didn’t always find out immediately how a certain character was relevant, which kept the mystery alive.