Seven Aunts

2022
Author:

Staci Lola Drouillard

DISCUSSION GUIDE (PDF DOWNLOAD)

Part memoir, part cultural history, these memories of seven aunts holding home and family together tell a crucial, often overlooked story of women of the twentieth century

Seven Aunts is an inspired patchwork of memoir and reminiscence, poetry, testimony, love letters, and family lore. In this multifaceted, unconventional portrait, Staci Lola Drouillard summons ways of life largely lost to history and reveals the true heart and soul of that history: women who defied expectations and overwhelming odds to make a place in the world for the next generation.

Seven Aunts is a celebration of the women in Staci Lola Drouillard’s family who struggled to escape a daunting legacy with unsung courage, humor, and an unbreakable love for family. Far more than a family history, Seven Aunts is an honor song that reveals the everyday heroism of these women’s lives. —Diane Wilson, author of The Seed Keeper

They were German and English, Anishinaabe and French, born in the north woods and Midwestern farm country. They moved again and again, and they fought for each other when men turned mean, when money ran out, when babies—and there were so many—added more trouble but even more love. These are the aunties: Faye, who lived in California, and Lila, who lived just down the street; Doreen, who took on the bullies taunting her “mixed-blood” brothers and sisters; Gloria, who raised six children (no thanks to all of her “stupid husbands”); Betty, who left a marriage of indenture to a misogynistic southerner to find love and acceptance with a Norwegian logger; and Carol and Diane, who broke the warped molds of their own upbringing.

From the fabric of these women’s lives, Staci Lola Drouillard stitches a colorful quilt, its brightly patterned pieces as different as her aunties, yet alike in their warmth and spirit and resilience, their persistence in speaking for their generation. Seven Aunts is an inspired patchwork of memoir and reminiscence, poetry, testimony, love letters, and family lore.

In this multifaceted, unconventional portrait, Drouillard summons ways of life largely lost to history, even as the possibilities created by these women live on. Unfolding against a personal view of the settler invasion of the Midwest by men who farmed and logged, fished and hunted and mined, it reveals the true heart and soul of that history: the lives of the women who held together family, home, and community—women who defied expectations and overwhelming odds to make a place in the world for the next generation.

Staci Lola Drouillard, a descendant of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Anishinaabe, lives and works in her hometown of Grand Marais, Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Her first book, Walking the Old Road: A People’s History of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Anishinaabe (Minnesota, 2019) won the Hamlin Garland Prize in Popular History and the Northeast Minnesota Book Award for nonfiction and was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award.

Seven Aunts is a celebration of the women in Staci Lola Drouillard’s family who struggled to escape a daunting legacy with unsung courage, humor, and an unbreakable love for family. Far more than a family history, Seven Aunts is an honor song that reveals the everyday heroism of these women’s lives.

Diane Wilson, author of The Seed Keeper

Reading Staci Lola Drouillard’s Seven Aunts is a mesmerizing experience. A family story at once vast and intimate, it’s also a book about womanhood and mothering, the confluence of Native American and settler lives, and the resplendent, beautiful northern third of Minnesota, with all its warm homes and tangled family trees. Though these are not your aunts, you’ll wish they were; for all the wisdom and love they’ve shared in their remarkable, ordinary lives, you will.

Peter Geye, author of Northernmost

Seven Aunts gives us a unique and privileged insight to the intimate lives and history of a blended Indigenous and immigrant family in northern Minnesota. Staci Lola Drouillard has written with honesty and truth about ‘the treacherous beauty of life’ in a family rich in characters, in love and loss, all with great humor. Anaïs Nin wrote that reaching deep into the personal becomes universal. Seven Aunts is exactly that. It speaks to us of the universal love of family, the reality of historic social challenges, and the strength of the unbreakable bonds of knowing.

Hazel Belvo

Staci Lola Drouillard explores the lives of her seven Anishinaabe and European aunties with fierce and unflinching admiration. Like a quilter sewing the final layer of a quilt, her detailed stitches reveal patterns that honor their harsh yet resilient lives. In the end, the reader gains a deeper appreciation for women’s survival along Minnesota’s North Shore and beyond.

Nora Murphy, author of White Birch, Red Hawthorn

Contents

Prologue: My Aunties

Faye

Lila

Doreen

Gloria

Betty

Carol

Diane

Coda: Seven Lessons

Acknowledgments

Notes