Article abstract: Writer and educator Michael Dorris had a significant impact on Native American studies as an academic discipline and on the general public's awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Michael Dorris's involvement with Native American affairs came quite naturally. The only child of a non-Native American mother and a Modoc father, Dorris spent childhood vacations with relatives who lived on reservations in Montana and Washington. His disdain for being called a Native American writer stemmed from these early experiences; he learned to think of people as human beings rather than as members of particular ethnic groups.
After his father's death, Dorris was raised by his mother, aunts, and grandmothers. The result of this feminine influence is apparent in his novel A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (1987), a story about three generations of women, narrated in their own voices.
In 1981, Dorris married Louise Erdrich, another author of mixed ancestry. Dorris attributed much of his literary success to Erdrich, making her another of his women-as-mentors. Dorris and Erdrich collaborated as they wrote, producing works that authentically showcase Native Americans.
After his adopted son, Abel, was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, a preventable but debilitating condition caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy, Dorris began writing The Broken Cord: A Family's Ongoing Struggle with...
(The entire section is 561 words.)