‘Sweetgrass’: Native author writes the Northland version of ‘The Graduate’

By Amy Goetzman

Grover_Road coverWhen Linda LeGarde Grover learned that her short story collection, “The Dance Boots” (University of Georgia Press), was a contender for Duluth’s One Book, One Community area-wide read, she was pleased but had no expectations. Other contenders included the blockbuster World War II hero tale, “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand, so LeGarde reserved her hopes. But this fall, at a reading for Grover’s new novel, “The Road Back to Sweetgrass,” a surprise guest stood up in the audience. Duluth Public Library manager Carla Powers announced that Northland readers had chosen “The Dance Boots,” weighing in via paper ballots at area libraries, and online via Facebook and Twitter.

Community reads are designed to get people talking about books the way we talk about TV shows: at the water cooler and over the fence. Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester have done these citywide book clubs, as have other Minnesota cities. Duluth’s One Book includes readers in Cloquet, Hibbing, Superior and Virginia.

Once participants read Grover’s engaging, character-driven stories, they may want to continue on to “The Road Back to Sweetgrass” (University of Minnesota Press) to find out what happened next. “The stories in the collection are linked together, and the connections thread forward into the novel,” says Grover. “This is a very Ojibwe way of telling stories — kind of like beads on a string.”

Grover, a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, centers her stories in the fictional Mozhay Point reservation. Characters move in and out of town, and back and forth in history. Grover especially focuses on the misadventures of young people trying to figure out how to live.

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