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The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,410 ratings  ·  173 reviews
“[Louise ] Erdrich holds up an articulate strength. Moving, memorable… [The Blue Jay’s Dance is] a book that breaks ground.”—Boston Sunday Globe

Fifteen years after its initial publication, New York Times bestselling author Louise Erdrich’s beloved memoir The Blue Jay’s Dance is available for a whole new generation of families to discover. The first major work of nonfiction
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 1st 1996 by Harper Perennial (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  1,410 ratings  ·  173 reviews


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Megan
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is my first year reading Erdrich but even so this motherhood memoir is deep backlist, when her girls were all under 4 and her husband was still alive. It feels more like Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek + infant than most new mom memoirs. There are tidbits about her larger family, seasonal noticings of nature, self-reflection, etc.

I found it interesting that she had adopted three older children before having her babies, as it made me think her experience only seems serene because she
...more
Jess
Sep 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Nike Sulway
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Anmiryam
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this way back in 1995-96 when my daughter was a baby (she who turned 21 today). A friend recommended it as a balm when I was struggling with working, caring for a newborn and wasting altogether too much time on being anxious about not being perfect. At the time it helped calm me, but I was also consumed by rabid jealousy of Erdrich's life and daily routines -- she took her baby to her writing cabin and they spent the day together in a form off peaceful communion while Louise wrote. It was ...more
Bre
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
I did not think it was possible that I could be disappointed by Ms. Erdrich, but I was with this one.
Chanel Earl
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Karen
Apr 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Lacey Louwagie
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
The postpartum period after giving birth to my first son seems like the perfect time to reread Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions" -- unfortunately, I gave my copy to my best friend when she was pregnant, having no idea that my own pregnancy was so close at hand. I thought Erdrich's book might serve as a good stand in, which it did to a certain extent.

Unlike "Operating Instructions," this is not really a journal or a traditional memoir but rather a series of loosely connected essays written
...more
Jon Manchester
Mar 05, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Katie
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago and found myself thinking about it recently. I was thinking of how it moved me and how lines from it are still with me. This is why, in retrospect, I’m upgrading my rating to a 5.
MaryS
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't expect to like this book - a memoir of early motherhood - but it turns out I loved it. Years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris speak at the University of North Dakota Writers' Conference, and that experience helped make this book come alive for me. I remember, at the time, thinking what a golden couple they were, and what a fairy tale life it must to live in the woods and work and raise a family. Turns out it was, and it wasn't. But this book was movin ...more
Meg
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved so many passages of this book. I purchased it after reading the library copy (something I never do) because I want to write in it and remember so much of the beautiful writing. My enjoyment of this book stems from where I am right now, so I don't expect that others will react as strongly as I did, but if you are a parent of a baby or toddler, you will appreciate the non-cliched musings on life. This is not a parenting book, but a warm blanket after a perfect night's sleep. ...more
Amy!
This was lovely, but the real star of Erdrich's "Birth Year" is the nature surrounding her as she writes. What she says about parenting and new babies is wonderful and True, but that isn't the focus of this narrative. ...more
Susann
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Susann by: NYT Match Book column
3.5 stars. I presume Erdrich wanted to write beyond the daily grind, but I would have lapped up more baby minutiae. I think (hope) I will always remember her final blue jay metaphor.

"Married passion is a quest, in the end, and the lovers are its heroes, fighting along the way demons of their own making and of others, changing identities, carving their initials into each other's hearts."

"Perhaps we owe some of our most moving literature to men who didn't understand that they wanted to be women n
...more
Melanie McGehee
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Do not speed read this gem as I started to, with my usual habits. This is one to savor slowly.
Alexis Andreu Martinez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Callie
Dec 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Judy
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pregnancy / Delivery / Self Identity -- Dependency to First Steps -- Natural World / Seasonal Changes

Motherhood prompts Erlich to see herself as part of a bigger picture, and to reflect on her relationship to other women, the human race, and the natural world.

p 62: [I admire the chickadee,] for it is a tough, cheerful, weightless survivor of the harshest winters, and its call seems always pleasantly friendly and encouraging.

p 89: The West, or the edge of it anyway, the great level patchwork of c
...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
Ron Christiansen
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf, memoir
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
Suzanne
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this at a secondhand bookstore, and after enjoying another of Louise erdrich's books, thought I'd try it. It was wonderful. Very pretty and poetic, it followed a year of her pregnancy and birth, but I liked it because she talked about birds and flowers and cats and trees and snow, giving profound observations and making metaphors.
At one point she notices that a groundhog comes out of her tunnels and eats a lunch of flowers at 11:45 exactly everyday. She then talks of when she was given a
...more
Kirsten
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gemma Alexander
Apr 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: raising-kids
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
Rachel
Nov 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jennifer
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Bummer. I wanted to like this book. I think I may have appreciated it during my year off raising my girl when I'd watch the snowflakes and the jogger who ran by our house with clockwork every day at 11. Nothing since has happened like clockwork.

This books seems out of touch with motherhood today. Could have been beautiful but seemed ridiculous somehow.

The reviews/comments have actually been more interesting than the book. I had no idea of Erdrich's personal saga.
...more
Isla McKetta
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A truly beautiful meditation on pregnancy, parenting, nature, and what it means to be a writer. The loving yet realistic picture of parenting is exactly what I needed right now. I'd recommend it for parents, soon-to-be parents, and writers at large. ...more
Michaela
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very evocative writer trying to capture the fog state inhabited by mothers after the birth of a child.
Lindsey
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is exquisite in so many ways, though drawn out and a bit tedious (much like caring for an infant, I presume). But reading this while a dear friend went through pregnancy and motherhood made me feel closer to her and the emotions she must've been feeling. These particular lines are my favorite--beautifully written with an air of honesty and intimacy you don't find easily.

"I come in eager hope and afraid of labor, all at once, for this is the heart of the matter. Whatever else I do, when
...more
Beth Weisberger
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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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33 likes · 18 comments
“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.” 155 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?” 78 likes
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