I am discovering through my work duties that the nonfiction works of popular fiction authors often languish. This one looked too interesting to pass when it came up on my list of long unread books.
The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich In this book, Erdrich, author of several authors focusing on Native Americans and prairie life, writes about the first year of her daughter’s life. Although she says the baby in the book is a composite of all three of her daughters, in the book it sounds like she is writing about the youngest of her three daughters. It’s poetic and reflective, honest about the difficulty of parenting a baby while at the same time stunningly beautiful. It doesn’t hurt that Erdrich lives in a cabin in the woods, and the baby’s stages are mixed in with large doses of the natural life outside their window and the woods through which they walk. She writes, as an example of the tough times, of how hard it is to keep a sense of self apart from the baby, how easy suicide seems after weeks of sleepless nights – only her self is so absorbed in the baby that she feels that she has no self of her own left to kill. On the plus side, she writes about breastfeeding, how many great romantic writers’ deep inarticulate longings were really for that feeling of unity and transcendence that breastfeeding brings. Despite the poetry and deep thoughts, the book is slim enough to get through easily, an important consideration for sleep-deprived new parents. The saddest part for me was knowing that the happy blended family described in this book fell apart just a few years later, giving the already fleeting pleasures of a baby and the changing of the seasons an even more ephemeral feeling.