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Tracks is part of a cycle of books all set in the same fictional community and dealing with many of the same characters and families – the Kashpaws, Pillagers, and Morrisseys. Other books in the saga include Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Bingo Palace. Tales of Burning Love, which features Sister Leopolda (Pauline), is also loosely related. Erdrich’s method of writing these related histories of families from the same community has been compared to William Faulkner and his creation of Yoknapatawpha County.
After her success with Love Medicine and The Beet Queen, Erdrich was unsure of what to write about next. She had a four-hundred page manuscript that was to be the foundation for Tracks, but regarded it as her “burden.” With the help of her husband, Michael Dorris, she decided she could use the story to continue the saga of Love Medicine and The Beet Queen.
The first edition of Tracks was published in 1988, but several of its chapters had been published previously as short stories. These include:
- Chapter Two: Originally published as "Fleur" in Esquire in August, 1986. This chapter, narrated by Pauline, relates the events of Fleur's rape in Argus.
- Chapter Five: Narrated by Nanapush, this chapter deals with the aftermath of Eli’s infidelity with Sophie, and was originally published as “Snares” in Harper’s, May 1987 and in Best American Short Stories, 1988.
- Chapters One and Three: Originally published together as "Matchimanito" in The Atlantic in May, 1988. In these chapters, Nanapush tells the story of the beginnings of his relationship with Fleur - how he rescued her from the sickness, helped Eli to woo her, and adopted Lulu as his granddaughter.