Hardcover. University of Minnesota (2014).
"A powerful debut novel of love, hardship, and family bonds on an American Indian reservation"
—from the author of the award-winning short story collection The Dance Boots
Set in northern Minnesota, The Road Back to Sweetgrass follows Dale Ann, Theresa, and Margie, a trio of American Indian women, from the 1970s to the present, observing their coming of age and the intersection of their lives as they navigate love, economic hardship, loss, and changing family dynamics on the fictional Mozhay Point reservation. As young women, all three leave their homes. Margie and Theresa go to Duluth for college and work; there Theresa gets to know a handsome Indian boy, Michael Washington, who invites her home to the Sweetgrass land allotment to meet his father, Zho Wash, who lives in the original allotment cabin. When Margie accompanies her, complicated relationships are set into motion, and tensions over “real Indian-ness” emerge.
Dale Ann, Margie, and Theresa find themselves pulled back again and again to the Sweetgrass allotment, a silent but ever-present entity in the book; sweetgrass itself is a plant used in the Ojibwe ceremonial odissimaa bag, containing a newborn baby’s umbilical cord. In a powerful final chapter, Zho Wash tells the story of the first days of the allotment, when the Wazhushkag, or Muskrat, family became transformed into the Washingtons by the pen of a federal Indian agent. This sense of place and home is both tangible and spiritual, and Linda LeGarde Grover skillfully connects it with the experience of Native women who came of age during the days of the federal termination policy and the struggle for tribal self-determination.
"With the grace of a dancer lifted by spirit and grounded in the well-worn earth beneath her feet, Linda LeGarde Grover tells a circular tale of life on and off the Reservation. Generous, ironic, and often gut-wrenching, The Road Back to Sweetgrass is at its large heart a book about the power of home and the inexorable connections between land, people, and stories."
—Danielle Sosin, author of The Long-Shining Waters
About the Author
Linda LeGarde Grover is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota - Duluth and she is the author of The Indian At Indian School, The Dance Boots, and most recently, The Road Back to Sweetgrass. She is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.