Voice of the Heartland

The Voice of the Heartland Award is awarded jointly by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association to individuals and organizations who uphold the value of independent bookselling and who have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Greater Midwest. 

Congratulations Louise Erdrich, Winner of the 2021 Voice of the Heartland Award

Louise ErdrichGLIBA and MIBA are honored to present Louise Erdrich, one of the most important voices in American arts and letters and one of our own in the bookselling community, with the 2021 Voice of the Heartland award. This award is given in recognition of individuals and organizations who uphold the value of independent bookselling and have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Midwest. As an author and bookseller, Ms. Erdrich is uniquely suited to win this award.

Ms. Erdrich has received warm and enthusiastic endorsements from many colleagues in the industry. Johanna Hynes, IPS sales manager, speaking on behalf of the award’s nominating committee, says, “Ms. Erdrich has created a rich literary landscape celebrating a sense of place, and a sensibility common to our region. She has long made her home here and her literary work has consistently given a voice to those often neglected or poorly represented in literature. Equally meaningful to us, she is a fellow independent bookseller and Birchbark Books, known for its commitment to the importance of independent business, stands as a unique place of discovery and understanding, especially of Native peoples and their arts.”

Birchbark Books co-managers Halee Kirkwood and Nadine Tiseberg echo that sentiment, saying “Birchbark Books is a haven for Native American literature and art. We are constantly inspired by Louise and through her leadership, Birchbark Books has fostered relationships with many schools, libraries, reservations, artists, and nonprofits. Louise reminds us why bookselling is one of the best jobs in the world and why bookstores remain integral to their communities.”

“I can think of nobody more deserving of the Voice of the Heartland Award than Louise Erdrich,” says Raven Book Store owner and author, Danny Caine. “In many ways, she is a guiding light for Midwestern and Great Lakes literature. Over the course of decades and dozens of novels, Erdrich has created perhaps the richest, funniest, most heartbreaking, and most ambitious fictional portrait of our region. When asked what I consider the essential Midwestern novel, my easy answer is The Round House. Erdrich has also 

Birch Bark Books

created a truly magical space in Birchbark Books. Like the best bookstores, Birchbark is a welcoming place, a place with a strong point of view, and a place that allows the love of books to blossom in its community. That it does all this while being a fierce advocate for indigenous authors and artists is worthy of commendation and celebration."

Theron O’Connor, co-owner of Apostle Islands Booksellers, says “From the front door of our store we look out across a Lake Superior sound onto Madeline Island. That is the setting for Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House. Our daughters and grandsons loved it and learned from it. Consistent with her adult work, she pulls no punches. Death is at the heart of it, but Heart is in the life of it.”


Past Voice of the Heartland Winners

2020 Two Dollar Radio​
2019 BINC
​2018 Kate McCune
2017 Roy Schonfeld
2016 Wendell Berry

2015 Ted Heinecken
2014 Kate DiCamillo
2013 Jim Harrison
2012 Liz Murphy, Roberta Rubin

2009 Becky Anderson
2008 Studs Terkel
2007 Partners Distribution
2001 Indiana Univ Press