The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year

ISBN: 0060927011
ISBN 13: 9780060927011
By: Louise Erdrich

Check Price Now


Biography Currently Reading Favorites Memoir Memoirs Native American Non Fiction Nonfiction Parenting To Read

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


If you know anyone's who is pregnant and who isn't exactly getting the conversation they need throughout the bizarre experience that is pregnancy, buy them this book. Erdrich recognizes and explores the beauty, complication, and terror of motherhood in a way that is making the forthcoming changes in my life not only more recognizable, but more manageable.


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.

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 and your quiet moments of reflection." Maybe I should have waited to read it during a week my baby was sleeping.


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."


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.


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.


I found this to be a very relaxing read. The book is a memoir covering a specific year in the author's life during which she was pregnant with her third child, gave birth, and returned to writing. The prose is lyrical and she includes reflections on pregnancy and motherhood as well as vivid descriptions of her encounters with wild life and her walks through the forest. At times she shares mystical experiences.


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.

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 is brilliant and the book is peppered with similar gems, particularly concerning the natural environment and animals. At points I felt like Louise's writing was scary good and I look forward to reading some of her fiction.


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.


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 is better.


(Non-Fiction - Mothering Memoir) Erdrich's writing is absolutely lovely, but the overall tone of this book was cumbersome. Her observations of mothering an infant while writing were interesting, but her commentary on the seasons and wildlife were a bit too emotionally taxing for a brand new hormonal mom, like myself. For fans of Erdrich, and those interested in the life of a writing mother.


I loved her holistic take on pregnancy, nature, the cycle of life, identity... with so much pregnancy and child-bearing non-fiction out there, it was refreshing to read a pregnancy and birth memoir that folded in more than just THE BABY. It's beautifully literary and helped me meditate on concepts like pain, growth, partnership, and parenthood.


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 does sound self-pitying or complaining. She honors toughness--that of her forbears, herself, her offspring, the survival instinct of all living things. If there is anything that keeps me from giving this book four stars it is that Erdrich sometimes seems to want to create or say things that to me do not sound authentic; they do not ring true. They make pretty sentences, but they are too precious. I find also that in some of the nature writing I read from this era (the 1990s) that there is almost a self-congratulatory or complacent element that creeps in and then I feel less enjoyment in the writing. It is as if the writer thinks he or she is a little more righteous or enlightened than everyone else because she is wise enough to observe and enjoy the natural world, and there is an artificial (!) feeling at those moments. Now we are in a post 9/11 world of edginess and fear and a distractedness that makes some of these works from the 90s seem naive to me. Too content. Like the writer is a cat who has just finished a bowl of cream and congratulates herself for her enjoyment of it. But who gave her the bowl? She is dependent on her caretaker and doesn't see how tenuous her existence really is. However, here are some quotes I liked: "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. Hormones, milk, heaviness, no sleep, internal joy, all jam the first few months after a baby is born, so that I experience a state of tragic confusion. Most days, I can't get enough distance on myself to define what I am feeling. I walk through a tunnel from one house to the other. . . I'm being swallowed alive. On those days, suicide is an idea too persistent for comfort. There isn't a self to kill, I think, filled with dramatic pity for who I used to be. That person is gone. Yet, once I've established that I have no personal self, killing whatever remains seems hardly worth the effort....""Any sublime effort has its dark moments."


"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, mouthing circles of distress, laughing, whistling, pounding, wavering, digging, pulling, pushing- labor is the most involuntary work we do.""I find women's labor extremely difficult to describe. In the first place, there are all sorts of labor and no "correct" way to do it. I bow to the power and grandeur of those who insist on natural childbirth, but I find the pieties that often attend the process irritating. I am all for pain relief or caesareans when women want and need these procedures. Enduring pain in itself doesn't make one a better person, though if your mind is prepared, pain of this sort- a meaningful and determined pain based on ardor and potential joy- can be deeply instructive, can change your life."

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *