The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year

ISBN: 0060927011
ISBN 13: 9780060927011
By: Louise Erdrich

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About this book

In The Blue Jay's Dance,Louise Erdrich's first major work of nonfiction, she brilliantly and poignantly examines the joys and frustrations, the compromises and the insights, the difficult struggles and profound emotional satisfactions she experienced in the course of one twelve month period--from a winter pregnancy through a spring and summer of new motherhood to fall a return to writing. In exquisitely lyrical prose, Erdrich illuminates afresh the large and small events that mothers--parents--everywhere will recognize and appreciate.

Reader's Thoughts


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.

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 this sentence: "When every inch of the world is known, sleep may be the only wilderness we have left." I love 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 do not love wisely, but perhaps they love best of all.""We cannot chose who our children are, or what they will be - by nature they inspire a helpless love, wholly delicious, also capable of delivering startling pain. That weed, again. Some children are best cherished when lightly held, some need to test the strength of your grip. We all grow thorns. We have to."


I read this when I was a new mom. I love Louis Erdrich's books. She takes an interesting perspective in this book, blending the experiences of giving birth to her children. I remember her meditation on trying to retrieve a cat from a whole in her basement wall being a little too long, but for the most part I loved this book. Especially, the way she juggles being a writer and a new mom.


I think kids, baby's, and birth are kind of icky so a lot of the parts in this novel I skipped over because I just didn't care. She is a great writer though and I really liked the way this was written. In some parts though I wanted to tell her to get a life and move on. I also disliked that she basically said that you weren't a woman until you had a child.


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 on. I also appreciated her insight into labor and birthing.With those positive points, I was less intrigued by the nature writing and her observations of wildlife which kept cropping up and taking away from the more interesting stories about her family. I just didn't care so much about the birds, the woodchucks, the feral cats... Hearing about her late husband, Michael Dorris, was intriguing, but also unsettling. Knowing now about his eventual suicide and the craziness that precipated that event made me realize that "Shadow Tag" is probably semi-autobiographical.


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 life and death. A quite different and extraordinary book.


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 know until using them to calm our baby. This dance is something we learned in our sleep, from our own hearts, from our parents, going back and back through all of our ancestors. Men and women do the same dance, and acquire it without thought. Graceful, eccentric, this wavelike sway is a skilled graciousness of the entire body. Parents possess and lose it after the first fleeting months, but that's all right because already it has been passed on- the knowledge lodged deep within the comforted baby.

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.


A beautiful set of short essays by Louise Erdrich written or thought out during (more or less) the first year of her youngest daughter's life. I think I will be able to appreciate this collection more once I have children, but I could relate to many of the sentiments and thoughts as a daughter and through other relationships. A very honest look at parenthood but also at being a daughter or granddaughter and the weight and meaning relationships have at every stage in life.


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 boar family, a sort of annunciation by luna moth. The writer's voice is naturalist, rebellious, domestic all at once. She invokes several generations of family (and the loss of grandparents), pieces together and imagines the history of her house in New Hampshire, and captures the richness of fleeting moments. Her husband is active in the background - mostly it's her, the baby, and a mothering-writing routine with struggles and joys. Several evocative recipes are included. She doesn't shy away from ambivalence.

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.


I did not think it was possible that I could be disappointed by Ms. Erdrich, but I was with this one.


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 having adopted older children. Her focus on the dilemma of connecting with your child when they are very young, but also remaining yourself and learning to separate so that you can both grow and remain whole feels so utterly truthful and adds complexity to the relationship of mother and child. How do you remain your own human when for so long you are not? She discusses how woman are lost by their children and by their homes stating, "How many woman are buried beneath their houses?"How many woman are simplified to be only the reflection of their childhood, and how many separate from their children healthfully and return to their own. At one point she lists fro two pages female authors their marital status and their children, lack thereof or abundance of, contemplating the likelihood of her survival as can author and first time birth mother. In addition to this book being about the relationship of mother and child she also delves into the life cycles of the world surrounding her. The book is divided into seasonal chapters, discussing the living world around her and how that helps her pass her time, but widen her own understanding of mothers and daughters life and death, time wasted and time gained. "Plants are very trusting," she writes as she remembers working in the garden and her young daughter makes this observation while they are planting. Although some of her observations are beautiful, some of the metaphors are hard to follow, and I would get lost with her connections and continual prose. Maybe it would do for a reread later in my life if I ever have children to add more of my own experience to her writing and be able to understand more of the connections she makes with her life and her children.


I absolutely loved this book. I loved it mostly for the language -- a deep celebration of motherhood as well as an acknowledgement of the burdens. I read this quietly, disappearing into the words each time I picked it up, underlining passages such as this: "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." And one of my favorites: "A mother's vision includes tough nurturance, survival love, a demanding state of grace."

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