Karen Louise Erdrich was born June 7, 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota. The oldest of seven children, Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Her German-American father and French-Ojibwe mother taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. Her maternal grandfather had once served as the tribal chair of the Turtle Mountain (North Dakota) Reservation.
She entered Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire) in 1972, part of the college's first coeducational class. She graduated from Dartmouth in 1976, with a Bachelor of Arts. Following graduation, she returned to North Dakota to teach poetry and writing to young people through the State Arts Council. She next attended Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland) and graduated with a Master's degree in 1979. She married Michael Dorris in October 1981. Dorris had been one of Erdrich's teachers at Dartmouth, and a romance developed. The couple separated in 1995; Dorris committed suicide in 1997.
Louise Erdrich published a book of poetry, Jacklight, in 1984. Her first novel was entitled Love Medicine and was published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1984. The book earned her the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for 1984 and the Sue Kaufman Prize for Fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, also for 1984. She has published several other well respected novels, including The Beet Queen (1986), Tracks (1988), The Crown of Columbus (1991), The Bingo Palace (1994), Tales of Burning Love (1996), The Antelope Wife (1998) and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001).
The Louise Erdrich Papers consist of a photocopied manuscript for Love Medicine. The manuscript is typed, with handwritten revisions and proofreading marks, and is 323 pages long.
The manuscript was provided by the publisher, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, and given to Dr. Robert Lewis. Lewis was a member of the English Department at the University of North Dakota, and editor of the journal North Dakota Quarterly. He requested a copy of the manuscript to choose a chapter to include in North Dakota Quarterly. Chapter four, "The Beads," appeared in the spring 1984 issue.
The folders are arranged in chapter order as outlined in the table of contents for the manuscript, which is the same order as the eventual printed book. The folder for "The Beads" is the galley proof for the North Dakota Quarterly article.