STORIED LIVES: Grand Marais author reflects on family history after literary win

An author born and raised in Grand Marais recently won a major literary award.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:59 PM CDT
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GRAND MARAIS, MN. (Northern News Now) - An author born and raised in Grand Marais recently won a major literary award.

Staci Drouillard, an author born and raised in Grand Marais, a community filled with a rich history of culture and art, found inspiration from her surroundings to put pen to paper.

Last month, she took home first place in the “Memoir and Creative Nonfiction” category at the Minnesota Book Awards in St. Paul.

“I was born and raised here,” explains Drouillard. “The beach here, Nishkwakwansing, which is the Ojibwe name for Chippewa City, my great grandma was born here.”

For the Minnesota author, her community and home are touchstones to her writing.

Her first book, “Walking the Old Road,” tells the history of Chippewa City, an Ojibwe settlement near what is now Grand Marais.

“I think it’s very important for people to understand the history of this place, in most cases, it was written by non-native people,” says Drouillard.

She adds that Grand Marais heavily influenced her book, especially the beach, which was recently transferred back to the Grand Portage Band.

On her father’s side of the family, Drouillard is a descendant of the Grand Portage Band.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility as a Grand Portage descendant and author to learn more and encourage others to come along with me,” says Drouillard.

Her latest novel, “Seven Aunts,” expands on her family’s identity as it tells the stories of her aunts on her father’s and mother’s side where explores her heritage, both Ojibwe from her father and German from her Iron-Range-raised mother.

Staci Drouillard's books
Staci Drouillard's books(Northern News Now)

Each of Drouillard’s seven aunts gets their own chapter in the book, which is a dedication to each of their experiences as women in the 20th-century Midwest.

“Their stories need to be heard, the voices of rural places, like this, I think are really where you’ll find the true history of America,” Drouillard explains.

“Seven Aunts” touched many across the region, culminating in a first-place win during May’s Minnesota Book Award ceremony in St. Paul.

Judges voted her work the top entry among other Minnesotan authors in the “Memoir and Creative Nonfiction” category.

“The thing that is thrilling about the award is that it means that readers can find themselves inside the stories of these women, who I think are amazing,” states Drouillard.

Her win is shared throughout her community and brings great pride to those who know her best.

Drury Lane Bookstore in Grand Marais
Drury Lane Bookstore in Grand Marais(Northern News Now)

Gwen Danfelt is the manager of Drury Lane Books, a local bookstore in Grand Marais.

She says the town and the local literary community are very proud of Drouillard and her storytelling.

“I get to be the one that is in between Staci and the customer, so I know how popular these books have been, so I wasn’t surprised really, she definitely deserves it,” says Danfelt. “She’s also a really good writer. A lot of people have good stories, but not as many people are good writers.”

For Drouillard, the win is less about notoriety and more the ability to share her family’s history and her beloved home with others.

“That book award to me is a hometown win. You know it was a win for this place and for my aunties and my cousins and this town that is so supportive of the arts,” says Drouillard.

Drouillard’s will be a children’s book called “A Family Tree,” which will be published next May.

She says it will be about a young spruce tree that gets transported from the shores of Lake Superior at Grand Portage to the woods of Good Harbor Hill in Grand Marais.

The book will be focused on change and how we overcome it.

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