North Dakota State University Press has recently announced the release of its latest poetry collection, “His Feathers Were Chains” by Denise K Lajimodiere. This book is currently available from NDSU Press, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, and local independent bookstores. The title was inspired by a welded statue of a Native American warrior riding a horse, which is featured on the cover.
“Feathers” is divided into five sections: “Broken Glass Dreams,” “Identity,” “His Feathers Were Chains,” “The White Heat,” and “Dancing with a Whirlwind.” The synopsis describes the book as “overt criticism of settler society” that is “subtle, approachable, and grounded in Ojibwe knowledge and customs.” In an excerpt released by NDSU Press, the poem “Slow Time” describes life on a reservation with domestic details such as “she brings in a load of wood and feeds the stove, / makes rubbaboo and fry bread… / shuffles her cards that no longer have faces, / while boiling drops dance like tears on the hot black stove.”
Lajimodiere—an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in Belcourt, North Dakota—is a retired associate professor, who earned her Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctorate degrees from NDSU. She has also worked as an elementary and middle school teacher and principal. In addition to being a writer, she’s a traditional birch-biting artist and jingle dress dancer.
“Feathers” is the second poetry collection that Lajimodiere has published with NDSU Press. The first was “Thunderbird,” released in 2017. Her other poetry books are “Dragonfly Dance,” published by Michigan State University Press in 2010, and “Bitter Tears” by Mammoth Press in 2016.
Also published by NDSU Press was her historical nonfiction book “Stringing Rosaries: The History, the Unforgivable, and the Healing of Northern Plains American Indian Boarding School Survivors” in 2019. The executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has described this book as “A powerful testimony and painful truth about Indian boarding schools and the atrocious human rights violations carried out by the religious and the government.”
“Stringing Rosaries”—the result of ten years of research and interviews—was inspired by the experiences of Lajimodiere’s own parents. It has won awards from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association and the Independent Publisher Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2020 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize.
Lajimodiere currently has a children’s book in the works entitled “Josie Dances,” which will be released in May 2021 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Illustrations will be done by artist Angela Erdrich, who works as a pediatrician in the Twin Cities. Like Lajimodiere, she’s a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
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