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The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year
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The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  821 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Intimate, honest and generous meditations on the delicate balance of mothering a baby and maintaining an artistic life, from the celebrated novelist and poet."Observant, tender and honest." "--New York Times Book Review"
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Published February 5th 1996 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,417)
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Megan
This book approaches the best book on mothering I have ever read. Precisely because it is poetic and doesn't collapse a large world into a small, explainable thing. It wanders and waits and watches and takes it time. She's not interested in theories or milestones as much as those slippery, inexplicable moments of grace and agony. I felt wrapped up in her experience and fundamentally understood--feminine, in a way that I didn't understand before I had children. I have wanted to express my experie ...more
Breezy
I did not think it was possible that I could be disappointed by Ms. Erdrich, but I was with this one.
Jess
Memorable:
"Women without children are also the best of mothers, often with the patience, interest and saving grace that the constant relationships with children cannot always sustain. I come to crave our talk and our daughters gain precious aunts. A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside the relationship with parents, by another adult."

"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth...let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness."

"Children
...more
Jon Manchester
My favorite part of Louise's memoir is a section entitled "Horizon Sickness" which describes how this North Dakota girl had trouble living in New England and not being able to see the horizon. I've had the opposite experience, having grown up in Vermont and now living in the flatlands of the upper midwest. Louise says: "I am suspicious of Eastern land: the undramatic loveliness, the small scale, the lack of sky to watch, the way the weather sneaks up without enough warning." This whole section i ...more
Nike Sulway
One of my favourite books of all time. Ever. How does she do it? Write such beautiful, honest, sentences? Reveal everything while saying so very little? Who knows. not me. It's magic.
Callie
There is some lovely nature writing here and some good, honest descriptions of the all-encompassing work of motherhood. I wish I had read this when my kids were babies--I'm glad for all the moments Erdrich expresses the intensity and difficulty of being a mother.

Edrich's skill as a writer shines through as she describes pain and beauty, darkness, depression, joy, observes wildlife and the forest that surrounds, describes her babies and their growth--all with precision, care, and grace. She never
...more
Catherine
This is such a beautiful book - lyrical and thought-provoking, and full of a certain dream-like quality that I (think I) recognize as the need for sleep. I loved Erdrich's honesty, her strategy for coping with a ceaselessly crying baby (calling her names in the sweetest voice she had), her musings on losing herself in motherhood and finding her way back to a life with, but not of, her child.

A quick read, it feels written for new mothers - the chapters aren't chapters so much as short vignettes;
...more
Chanel Earl
There were sentences and even whole paragraphs in this book that I loved, but I didn't love the whole book:

1. I never felt grounded. Was I reading about motherhood, writing, nature? I didn't know what kind of book I was reading. In the end I decided it was a book about whatever Louise Erdrich wanted to write about that day and I felt she was a little indulgent at my expense.

2. Too many adjectives and adverbs. It slowed me down and made the book less fun.

That said, I wish I would have written th
...more
Gemma Alexander
It's supposed to be a down to earth series of essays about the first year of her sixth child's life. There were a couple good observations, none of which I could remember as soon as I was done with the book. I couldn't really appreciate it, since I spent most of the book thinking, "Oh look at you, aren't you cool. You've got six kids and three are adopted and one has series birth defects and you're writing a book with a newborn. Great, so you function better with no sleep than I do. Screw you an ...more
Karen
This is a beautiful and lyrical non-fiction book that describes the author's life in rural New Hampshire after the birth of one of her children. The problem is that the book is not about anything. It has no plot, no characters, and no development. Mostly it describes nature and animals, with occasional tangents for recipes. There were a few nice moments but it was way too rambling for me. When I look past the content problems I did sense some writing talent so I am curious to see if her fiction ...more
Ron Christiansen
My best experience with Erdrich since her novel Love Medicine. So many of her observations, carefully crafted into a sentence, startled me with insight:

"Laughter is our consolation prize for consciousness."

"We cannot choose who our children are, or what they will be--by nature they inspire a helpless love, wholly delicious, also capable of delivering startling pain."

"Love's combination of attraction and despair thrills us. Our peculiar ability to be at home in the arms of one person, while alway
...more
Ann
I enjoyed the easy-reading feel of this book. She writes several brief excerpts or essays throughout some of her pregnancy and first year of one child's life. She is very knowledgeable and observant of nature, and much text is given to these topics. She also has some very clear observations on the intricacies of motherhood.

"The primary parent of a new infant loses the ability to focus, and that in turn saws on the emotions, wears away the fragile strings of nerves."

On motherhood/parenthood: "Her
...more
Michaela
Very evocative writer trying to capture the fog state inhabited by mothers after the birth of a child.
Isabell
Reading this book is like peeking into the soul of every mother who ever lived, though every mother's life is different, of course. In a kind-of almost-poetic, dreamlike prose, it describes moments of the purest oneness, the most intense warmth, but also deep wells of darkness. The author springs those fleeting moments on us the way they occur in real life, randomly, unannounced, like little revelations, amid what is our everyday life. And if not everyday life, then whatever it is we do, as moth ...more
Emily
Not sure what took me so long to read this book-- it's only 223 pages. It was very poetic, which made for a lot of goosebumps and admiration over well-crafted sentences and passages of sheer brilliance. But, killed the element of rapid page turning. Aside from its delicious verbosity, I think I took this memoir at a snail's pace for two reasons: 1.) I expected it to be more about "birth" and motherhood as it is subtitled "A Birth Year" 2.) Instead there were a lot of passages about elk and hedge ...more
Paige
On a family trip up to New Hampshire I began reading Erdrich's story of home and life in the White Mountains. Glancing out around the yard and looking at the great snow covered hills surrounding me I understood her description of feeling at a loss or feeling homesick for the horizon in front of you. Vast space is not something often experienced here, unless you have climbed to the top of one of those mountains.

She has some beautiful moments in describing her life as a young mother while also ha
...more
Mawgojzeta
In her first work of nonfiction, Louise Erdrich examines the joys and frustrations in the course of twelve months, from a winter pregnancy through a spring and summer of new motherhood, to a fall return to writing. She does this brilliantly. I was totally caught up from the first page. Not simply a book for mothers, it is a book for anyone who has been the primary caregiver, or anyone who plans to be a mother.

Read this excerpt:

There is a dance that appears out of nowhere, steps we don't know we
...more
Megan
"Growing, bearing, mothering or fathering, supporting and at last letting go of an infant is a powerful and mundane creative act that rapturously sucks up whole chunks of life."

"Time with children runs through our fingers like water as we lift our hands, try to hold, to capture, to fix moments in a lens, a magic circle of images or words. We snap photos, videotape, memorialize while we experience a fast-forward in which there is no replay of even a single instant."



"Rocking, breathing, groaning,
...more
Katina
This book consists of Erdrich's reflections on a year surrounding the birth of a child. It's cobbled together out of memories from the pregnancies and births of her three daughters and broken out into seasons. Parts of the book astounded me with their beauty and lyrical description of feelings I've had the past 8 months of motherhood, but haven't been able to put into words. The way Erdrich describes how time moves dreadfully slow as well as flashing forward in an instant for a parent was spot o ...more
Phoebe
This is a beautiful, meditative book on being a mother and a writer, pregnancy and the baby's first year of development, the way we experience growth and change - thrilling gains and losses. Not much happens, and yet everything happens (WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL) inside and outside the writer's window in the woods... caring for newborn, not-taming a feral cat, watching a hawk confused by the blue jay's desperation dance, walking through a fortress fence into a game preserve and encountering a ...more
Kelly
Love,love, loved this book. How have I not read Louise Erdrich before? Wow, her writing is beautiful, magical. I found myself reading and rereading passages, then highlighting phrases, paragraphs. This book was a memoir about the early parenting of her 3 daughters (also adopted 3 older american indian boys), but it also touches wildlife and gardening. While I was reading this book, I did a little research online about the author and her real life story is full of drama and sadness. I learned so ...more
RH Walters
I like Erdrich's comment that each woman must write her own bloody fairy tale. Throughout the book her attention is absorbed by passing wildlife, garden planning, recipes, family members and dreams. Conversational but not too personal, written like someone who is regularly awestruck and determined to record it in the time she has.
Andrea
Can't decide how I feel.

First impression: Incredible writer - love the way she talks of birth and the connection to her babies. Her connection to nature is clear - though her noble bearing often crosses into a certain superiority over us (the reader).

Anna informed me of Erdrich's background: her husband wasn't even Native American as he claimed. Another white guy playing Indian. AND he killed himself because he allegedly abused his children (as did she). Makes those parts of the book where she
...more
Kirsten
Like a conversation with a wise friend, complete with recipe ideas (including an all-licorice dinner menu!) I like the short entries, diary-like format, which allows Erdrich to let her thoughts go where they will and have the whole thing still hold together.

This resonated:
"The British psychotherapist Adam Phillips has examined obstacles from several different angles, attempting to define thier emotional use: 'It is impossible to imagine desire without obstacles,' he writes, 'and wherever we find
...more
Linda
This book contains journal like entries about Erdrich's pregnancy and the first months of her third daughter's birth, while living in a New Hampshire farmhouse with her writer husband Michael Dorris and their other children. Louise was born in North Dakota and has Ojibwa blood from her maternal grandfather; some of her thoughts reach back to this upbringing. This is a gentle, contemplative book to read, with much observation on nature the blurb on the book jacket says she "takes the mundane rout ...more
Deb
Nature and mothering, two topics on my mind a lot. She articulates feelings so well, captures the essence of fleeting moments. We know from the intro she is weaving a tale spanning the growth of 3 children and she sticks to her plan, holding us at a distance from the other parts of her family and life. Only allusion to the older children, only brief mentions of husband in parenting, this is Erdrich's story. It is only a fragment of a truth and maybe that's all any person can share with another. ...more
Julianne
The Blue Jay's Dance was a peaceful, contemplative book. Even though the cover of my edition bills it as a "memoir of early motherhood" the book is actually 50% wildlife scenes that the author observes from her rural home and writing cabin. To me, the parts on motherhood much more insightful and I wish they would have made up more of the book. Overall though, the book has a very idyllic feel. My only advice to the reader would be not the immediately ruin the warm fuzzy feelings generated by read ...more
Julie
One of the loveliest memoirs I've read. I first read this 17 years ago, when my youngest daughter was an infant. More recently, I've given it as a gift to several nieces in their last trimester of pregnancy, and they've all loved it, too.

A beautiful book.
Rachel
Aug 19, 2010 Rachel rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody really...
Recommended to Rachel by: Book Club
Shelves: 6-hated-it
Very rarely do I start a book without pushing through and finishing it (whether I enjoy myself while reading or not), but this one I just could not do. I have read Erdrich before and was excited to read another one of her works, but I was very disappointed. The content was so shallow; I didn't feel any connection to her or what she was writing about. Occasionally she would start an interesting observation or two, but then she would force it forward in what seemed like an effort to sound more poe ...more
JoTownhead
Louise Erdrich chronicles the first year of her baby's life in rural New Hampshire. The baby's birth and development and her own spiritual and emotional growth are rooted in the cycles of nature. The family live surrounded by teeming wildlife, flora and fauna - all described so evocatively. Seasons pass inexorably and events are recorded in a series of self-standing pieces (some of which have been published in magazines), capturing the essence of motherhood and interweaving wise observations on ...more
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Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. Her father is German American and mother is half Ojibwe and half French American. She is an enrolled member of the Anishinaabe nation (also known as Chippewa). She is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native writers of the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renais ...more
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“Women without children are also the best of mothers,often, with the patience,interest, and saving grace that the constant relationship with children cannot always sustain. I come to crave our talk and our daughters gain precious aunts. Women who are not mothering their own children have the clarity and focus to see deeply into the character of children webbed by family. A child is fortuante who feels witnessed as a peron,outside relationships with parents by another adult.” 102 likes
“So what is wild? What is wilderness? What are dreams but an internal wilderness and what is desire but a wildness of the soul?” 44 likes
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