By Heid E. Erdrich
Review by Rachel Mitchell
National Monuments by Heid E. Erdrich is a collection of poetry that touches on the bodies of indigenous women all over the world through time. Heid E. Erdrich is on Ojibwe women who writes poetry, short stories, and nonfiction. This book was published in 2008 and has been reaching people and giving a voice to indigenous women worldwide. We get perspective of old bones that belonged to strong women. There are also entries that anyone can relate to about body images. This captures that national monuments are not always these big places but are sometimes bodies on this planet. Although many of these stand-alone the thread of bodies in space (particularly women) they are all extremely powerful.
The top reason this is a must read is because indigenous people already are underrepresented in classrooms and in general. This book of poetry is an amazingly written and allows for different perspectives of what native women have to face. There is never enough representation in classrooms of indigenous people even if there is an attend of diversity. This talks about the poor treatment of these women and give many different perspectives. Although Erdrich is Native American she also gives a voice to other indigenous people throughout the poems. She is giving a voice to those who already have little to no voice on top of her own which is underrepresented. Not only is this book giving a voice to unrepresented people there is a great deal of research Erdrich did to give these women accurate voices.
There are many works within this book that I have read a dozen times. But to show the diversity of this book one of the poems is titled “eBay Bones”. In this poem Erdrich writes about how ignorant people are when it comes to the dead. It describes a bidding of a dead women’s ancient bones. The detail Erdrich uses to describe how people see these priceless bones were buried in a sacred site and dug up for someone to make money off of. It shows how even the dead cannot rest in peace. Another really powerful poem is “Infinite Progression”. This poem focuses around a girl of mixed blood and how she see’s herself in the mirror as well as how other people see her. This poem is something that I feel like countless people can relate to. Overall, this book continues many small poems that stretch far in time and place to bring a voice to the underrepresented indeginous women.
I personally believe this is the best book of poetry I have ever read. I believe that more indeginous people should be read and taught in classrooms. This book is something anyone can pick up and learn from. It ranges in emotions and topics but always revolving around indeginous women and their bodies. Even if you are a man there is a perspective here that can be insightful and eye opening. What is important to note is that they aren’t repetitive. You might think that they would start to overlap dramatically but Erdrich carefully creates each story to show a little different perspective. Whether we get the perspective of people on the outside or the women herself. I have read this in a class before and even my teacher cried at some points because of how powerful it was. I have gone back and read this poetry book 3 times now and still love it just as much as I did the first time. I recommend this for those looking for a great book of poetry that represents a group of people who deserve the spotlight.
Below are some resources on the author and this book if you have any questions or are curious as to how others felt about the book.
This first link is to a “about the author” page. This will give a more detailed background to Heid E. Erdrich if you want to learn more!
This link is another review of National Monuments that does a much closer analysis of the book and the author. It also has some other information of other books by Erdrich.
This final link is to Goodreads, where you can find ways to buy the book and read the comments of people who have read the book and reviewed it to get more opinions.