Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

This post was developed and authored by Rebecca Fullan.

Core text

Erdrich, Louise. Future Home of the Living God. New York: HarperCollins, 2017.

Summary

This novel takes the form of diary entries, written from 26 year-old Cedar Songmaker to her gestating child over the course of her pregnancy. The United States may be politically collapsing and is becoming ever more violent and carceral in this process, while strange evolutionary mutations lead to the rumor that evolution has started to run backwards–together, these events lead to governmental attempts to imprison and control all pregnant people. Cedar, who is Anishinaabe and adopted by white parents, works with all of her family to try and evade this control. It becomes clear throughout the novel that, while climate change is rarely explicitly mentioned, it is a background and a catalyst for all these environmental and political upheavals.

Teaching Resources

  • Powys-Whyte, Kyle. “Let’s Be Honest, White Allies.” Yes! No. 85: Spring 2018, 47-48. An article highlighting how white and settler conservationists often are attempting to “prevent their own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias” (48). Powys-Whyte writes about these ideas in several places–this one might be nice for class use because it is very short and written for a popular magazine. Useful to discuss characters in Future Home and their behaviors with these ideas in mind– especially Sera, Phil, and Eddy. If you have more time, the whole issue–focused on decolonization & Indigenous voices–might be engaging.
  • Keller, Catherine. Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996. What is especially useful in this book is Keller’s idea of “cryptoapocalypse”: basically, that, being inundated with an apocalyptic ideology and stories of the world ending prepares people to shrug off and accept terrible events, even if they do not explicitly believe in any kind of religious apocalypse. This concept is also useful in thinking about how the ideas of settler colonialism persist–and shape people’s violent actions–in Future Home, even as the United States itself is less politically coherent and viable. Ch. 4 on Place: “De/Colon/izing Spaces,” and Ch. 6 on Gender: “Silly Women of the Last Days” might be especially useful to connect to Future Home.
  • Jill Doerfler, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, eds. Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World through Stories. East Lansing and Winnipeg: Michigan State University Press and University of Manitoba Press, 2013. This anthology can be used to provide an introduction to Anishinaabeg studies as a broad field, as well as specifically Anishinaabe literary history and the way stories are engaged throughout Anishinaabe cultures. Various essays may be more or less useful for differently focused classes, but we recommend beginning with at “Bagijige: Making an Offering,” which is the introduction by the editors, for a sense of both how the anthology works and how these scholars are relating to stories, and “The Story Is a Living Being: Companionship with Stories in Anishinaabeg Studies,” by Eva Marie Garroutte and Kathleen Delores Westcott or “K’zaugin: Storying Ourselves into Life” by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair. With this foundation, a class could consider both how Future Home itself and specific stories told within the text function in this context of what stories are and do.
  • Conceivable Future is “a women-led network of Americans bringing awareness to the threat climate change poses to reproductive justice, and demanding an end to US fossil fuel subsidies.” This organization is committed to demonstrating and exploring how “the climate crisis is a reproductive crisis. Among other activities, they collect testimonies from people about how climate change is impacting their decisions about having children and parenting. I think it would be very effective for students to connect these real-life, current experiences to the more dystopian, but related, imagined future of Cedar’s experience in Future Home.


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