The Seed Keeper

A Novel
Winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Fiction

“Compelling […] The Seed Keeper invokes the strength that women, land, and plants have shared with one another through the generations.” —ROBIN WALL KIMMERER
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Winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Fiction
A BuzzFeed Best Book of Spring
A Book Riot Best Book of the Year
A Bon Appetit Best Summer Read
A Ms. Magazine Best Book of the Year

A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family’s struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most.

Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn’t return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato—where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they’ve inherited.

On a winter’s day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband’s farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron—women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools.

Weaving together the voices of four indelible women, The Seed Keeper is a beautifully told story of reawakening, of remembering our original relationship to the seeds and, through them, to our ancestors.

Publish Date
8.5 × 5.5 × 1.5 in
17 oz

Diane Wilson

Diane Wilson (Dakota) is the author of The Seed Keeper, as well as a memoir, Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past, and a nonfiction book, Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life. She is the executive director for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, a national coalition of tribes and organizations working to create sovereign food systems for Native people. She is a Mdewakanton descendent, enrolled on the Rosebud Reservation, and lives in Shafer, Minnesota.

Praise and Prizes

  • “In chapters that shift among the perspectives of four Dakhóta women—including Rosalie’s great-aunt, who grew plants because the seeds in her pocket were ‘all that’s left of my family’—Wilson tracks Rosalie’s attempts to understand her family and her roots, and considers how memory cultivates a sense of connection to the land.”

    The New Yorker
  • “It’s a moving multi-generational story about the destruction of Native American families, communities and lands—but also about reconnection, hope and the natural world … Wilson offers a different kind of idealism: one where community, family and the seeds can create the future we’re seeking.”

    Claire Comstock-Gay
    TODAY Show Online
  • “A stunning, lyrical story … And though this book pulls no punches in its condemnation of white settlers and colonizers and their continued abuse of the land, it is also heartfelt and hopeful, carrying a steadfast belief in the strength of family, will, and growth.”

    “Best Books of Spring 2021”
  • “Through the voices of … women from past and present, Wilson deepens the reader’s understanding of what loss of language and culture has done to Indigenous people. In depicting the way Rosalie’s ancestor Marie Blackbird and other women sew seeds into their clothing as the war breaks out, Wilson shows these women’s relationship to and reverence for the land: a sharp contrast to ‘a country that destroys its soil,’ using methods of modern agriculture and its effects upon waterways. A thought-provoking and engaging read.” 

    Starred Review
  • “Uprooted from their land, the seeds Dakhóta women carried with them were not just a source of sustenance, but their link to the past and hope for the future, a symbol of their profound bond with the Earth. They provide a powerful symbol for Rosalie’s rediscovery of her lost family and the ways of ‘the old ones.’ A thoughtful, moving meditation on connections to the past and the land that humans abandon at their peril.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “[The Seed Keeper] is a gorgeous and moving work of fiction with memorable characters that will stay in your heart and body for a long time.”

    BuzzFeed, “Brilliant Books That Explore Our Relationship with Nature”
  • “Through its examination of the protagonist’s life in the foster care system, The Seed Keeper confronts the legacy of American Indian genocide and sets Diane Wilson apart as a rising star.”

    “Most Anticipated Debuts of 2021”
  • “[Wilson’s] writing is almost like a lullaby, guiding you gently across the tale. There is poetry in the words, a love for nature you can feel seeping through each page.”

    Book Riot, “Best Books of 2021”
  • “Spend a long afternoon with this beautiful, immersive novel. It traces Rosalie Iron Wing’s family history through four generations of women who have loved, lost, and fought to retain their Dakota culture and the seeds that sustain them.”

    Bon Appetit Magazine
    “Best Summer 2021 Reads”
  • “[The Seed Keeper] tells the story of Rosalie Iron Wing, a Dakota woman who, after surviving the foster care system to make a life of her own in the world, must confront the harsh realities—climate change, capitalism—of contemporary farming life. In looking to her past for answers Rosalie finds unexpected communion with her ancestors, the women—strong, resilient, proud—who made her who she is.”

    Literary Hub
    “Most Anticipated Books of 2021”
  • “After her father doesn’t return from checking his traps near their home, Rosalie Iron Wing, a Dakota girl who’s grown up surrounded by the woods and stories of plants, is sent to live with a foster family. Decades later, widowed and grieving, she returns to her childhood home to confront the past and find identity and community—and a cache of seeds, passed down from one generation of women to the next.”

    The Millions
    “Most Anticipated Books of 2021”
  • “A moving, resonant song of remembrance, lineage, womanhood, kinship, loss, and land.”

    Books Are Magic
  • “[Wilson] expertly weaves history and fiction to show how colonialism has long been a driver of environmental destruction. But the novel is also celebratory, a powerful and compelling ode to the resilience and wisdom of Indigenous cultures.”

    Literary Hub
    “Recommended Climate Readings for March 2021”
  • “With compelling characters and images that linger long after the final page is turned, The Seed Keeper invokes the strength that women, land, and plants have shared with one another through the generations.”

    Robin Wall Kimmerer
    Author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
  • “[A] moving and monumental debut novel … Wilson opens her book with the poem ‘The Seeds Speak,’ in which the seeds declare, ‘We hold time in this space, we hold a thread to / infinity that reaches to the stars.’ This novel illuminates that expansiveness with elegance and gravity.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • “A gracefully told story of continuity through seeds saved and nurtured by Dakota women, The Seed Keeper is lush and sustaining—a read that feeds heart and spirit in the same way as do the gardens that are their legacy.”

    Linda LeGarde Grover
    Author of Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year
  • “Like watching a garden grow from seed to harvest, this novel quietly unfolds to tell the story of several generations of Dakhóta women and the land that connects them.”

    The Daily Beast
    “Best Summer Reads of 2021”
  • “Told through the voices of four remarkable women, this is a book about preservation … This beautiful generational saga challenges conventional American history, asking us to reckon with the traumas brought upon Native Americans.”

  • “A powerful story recounting the attempted genocide of Indigenous people in America — and how they continue to survive.”

    “Best New Books of Spring 2021”
  • The Seed Keeper is a deeply empathetic portrayal of a character grappling with a vibrant heritage complicated by pain, loss, and dysfunction. Ultimately, Rosalie comes to terms with who she is, understanding that for her, survival itself is a remarkable feat.”

    Sierra Magazine
  • “Wilson offers finely wrought descriptions of the natural world, as the voice of the seeds provides connective threads to the stories of her people. This powerful work achieves a deep resonance often lacking from activist novels, and makes a powerful statement along the way.”

    Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • [The Seed Keeper] is a simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful story that weaves the voices of four women on the weft of history and storytelling.

    Walker Art Magazine
  • “Told through the voices of strong, albeit fractured, women across generations, The Seed Keeper is a novel about legacies, generational trauma, and the inescapable call of one’s roots … With a focus on women who carry the scars of the past alongside hope for the future, The Seed Keeper is a profound novel about resilience and rebirth.”

    Foreword Reviews
  • “[Diane Wilson] has lured us in with her upcoming novel about generations of Dakota women tasked with preserving their culture’s traditions, namely a cache of seeds, against nasty and unscrupulous threats from the modern world.”

  • “In elegant prose, Wilson tells a story of one woman’s reflections on her life, loss, family and the seeds she knows are her ancestors and an imperative legacy she must protect at all costs.”

    Ms. Magazine
  • “In her remarkable first novel, Diane Wilson braids history and fiction, offering a heartbreaking yet hopeful story of the Dakota women who protected their family seeds for future generations. The Seed Keeper is both a prayer and a powerful invitation for all of us to fall back in love with the earth.”

    Carolyn Holbrook
    Author of Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify
  • “Wisdom, humor, truth, marriage, history, child-rearing, environmental advocacy, overcoming obstacles, tears: [The Seed Keeper] has it all, told in a compelling and poignant way.”

    The Circle: Native American News and Arts
  • “In [Wilson’s] first novel, the writing sings in compact, careful sentences, lending a timelessness to the narrative and making it clear that this compelling story is not just about these characters but also about culture, landscape and how we can—and often cannot—understand each other. Haunting and beautiful, the seeds and words of this novel will find their way into your world, however far from the Dakhóta lands that might be.”

    BookPage, Starred Review
  • “Direct and beautiful … A compelling read.”

    High Country News