Yesterday was our staff reader’s advisory meeting and this month’s title was The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich. The category for January was ethnic fiction and The Bingo Palace is set in the Chippewa Nation in North Dakota.
It addresses the choice being made by a driftless character named Lipsha Morrissey. Lipsha may have reasons for being a bit down: his mother tried to drown him in a sack full of stones when he was a child, his father is a notorious prisoner in jail and he is in love with his uncle’s wife.
What saves Lipsha and many of the other characters in this book is that they are imbued with magic powers. This characteristic also answers the question of why should we read ethnic fiction. By reading outside your own culture, book groups must deal with questions such as do these magical powers really exist.
Setting aside the issues of ethnicity, this book also will stimulate discussion because of the author’s style. The presentation of the characters is different due to the nature of their ethnicity and the proof in this might be the fact that Erdrich’s mother was a Chippewa. The bigger stylistic issue may be that Erdrich is a poet and she is capable of writing sentences that stop a reader because they are so rich. Book groups will find themselves addressing both the language used and how it is used when discussing this title.
Group leaders may know the titles that preceded The Bingo Palace: Love Medicine, The Beet Queen and Tracks. If you have tried these titles and were happy, you will want to continue with The Bingo Palace. A reader’s guide can be found at http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_b/bingo_palace1.asp