By Linda LeGarde Grover
Publisher: University of Minnesota
Anishinaabe author, Linda LeGarde
Grover (Boise Forte Band of Ojibwe) contributes to the nation’s
literary achievement in historic fiction. Her novel, “The Road Back
to Sweetgrass,” published in the fall of 2014, explores the realm
of Indigenous thought through historic, Anishinaabe circumstance from
1970 to 2014. This book begins in the fictional, Ojibwe reservation
of Mozhay Point, located in north Minnesota.
From a chance encounter during a
summer wild rice harvest in 1973, protagonist Margie Robineau of
Mozhay Point finds herself falling head over heels for Michael
Washington, described as a debonair, Jay Silverheels-meets-Marlon
Brando figure of the Miskwaa River Band of Ojibwe.
Michael and his father, Zho Washigton,
of the Wazhushkag (Muskrat) family, were erased from the BIA rolls by
an Indian agent during the allotment period, who reassigned them a
last name of Washington. Zho becomes a powerful analogy of
inspiration and transformation in this novel.
The character of Dale Ann Dionne
brings a new perspective to the Federal Indian Relocation Program,
when she finds herself in the metropolis of Chicago in 1970 working
as a telephone operator.
Remedy of craft in satire is found
through Grover’s use of parody, which evokes humor from her
presentation of characters like American Indian Studies Professor,
Dr. Roger-Head, who teaches a course entitled, “Indians of America”
(18-19). At other times, laughter is provoked by characters like
Teresa Robineau, who sports a 70’s version of emo glasses,
compliments of her local IHS clinic.
From Grover’s artistic organization
of novel sections, to her use of Ojibwemowin and English, The Road
Back to Sweetgrass is clearly the product of Indigenous thought and
experience in the modern era. Readers of this novel are sure to find
resilience in that moment when you know your “own story”