One Book One MN: 10th title

Special Edition of Statewide One Book Program Featuring Follow the Blackbirds

Great River Regional Library will participate in a special edition of One Book | One Minnesota, a statewide book club that invites Minnesotans of all ages to read a common title and come together virtually to enjoy, reflect, and discuss. The tenth title for the program is Follow the Blackbirds by Minnesota’s Poet Laureate, Gwen Nell Westerman. Presented in partnership with State Library Services, a division of the Minnesota Department of Education, the program aims to bring Minnesotans together and highlight the role of libraries as community connectors.


From April 3 through May 28, through their local libraries, Minnesotans will be invited to read the featured book selection and will have access to reading guides, and virtual book club discussions. Readers can access the ebook for free on Ebooks Minnesota for eight weeks (click here for the ebook). In addition to the digital format, hard copies of the book will be available in Great River Regional Library's collection (click here for the book in GRRL's catalog). 


About the Book

In language as perceptive as it is poignant, Westerman builds a world in words that reflects the past, present, and future of the Dakota people. An intricate balance between the singularity of personal experience and the unity of collective longing, Follow the Blackbirds speaks to the affection and appreciation a contemporary poet feels for her family, community, and environment. With touches of humor and the occasional sharp cultural criticism, the voice that emerges from these poems is that of a Dakota woman rooted in her world and her words. In this moving collection, Westerman reflects on history and family from a unique perspective, one that connects the painful past and the hard-fought future of her Dakota homeland. Grounded in vivid story and memory, Westerman draws on both English and the Dakota language to celebrate the long journey along sunflower-lined highways of the tallgrass prairies of the Great Plains that returns her to a place filled with “more than history.” An intense homage to the power of place, this book tells a masterful story of cultural survival and the power of language.


About the Author

Gwen Nell Westerman’s roots are deep in the landscape of the tall grass prairie and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. Since 2005, she has been creating quilts that have won awards at the juried shows of the Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in Indianapolis, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair and Market in Phoenix. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate. Westerman is the co-author of Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota which won a 2013 Minnesota Book Award and the 2014 Hognander Minnesota History Award. She also has a collection of poetry in Dakota and English, Follow the Blackbirds. Westerman holds her BA and MA in English from Oklahoma State University, and PhD in English from the University of Kansas. She teaches American and Native Nations literatures, Technical Communication, and Humanities to undergraduate and graduate students at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She received the Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Award for her work on Dakota history and language and is a Distinguished Faculty Scholar in recognition of her work as a scholar, poet, and artist.  


One Book | One Minnesota is presented by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, as the Minnesota Center for the Book, in partnership with State Library Services and sponsored by SPIRE Credit Union. Program partners also include Council of Regional Public Library System Administrators; Mackin VIA; Minitex; the Minnesota Department of Education; and University of Michigan Press. This program is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Links to resources and more information can be found at

One Book One Minnesota: Special Edition - images of the book cover and author