Synopses & Reviews
On the ground I got a better look at them: three bureaucrats, dressed in wrinkle-free suits, with business in the state capital; two ranchers sporting their go-to-town buckles--large silver and turquoise affairs that divided barrel chests from thin, booted legs; a harried mother trying to convince a small child with pressure-stopped ears to yawn or swallow; a visiting in-law, met loudly by a woman in curlers and Bermuda shorts.
The year was 1971 and I was twenty-six years old, ex-would-be hippie, candidate for a Yale doctorate in anthropology, a first-year instructor at a small experimental college in New England. This cloudy afternoon in Pierre was the culmination of a journey I had begun nine months before when, while doing fieldwork in rural Alaska, it occurred to me that I wanted a child, I wanted to be a parent.
It was my second autumn in Tyonek. I had spent the morning interviewing an elderly woman, Mrs. Nickefor Alexan, the respected expert on subjects ranging from traditional herbal medicine to the do's and don'ts of appropriate courting behavior. In the course of our conversations, I consumed too much tea and my mouth was dry with the acidic taste.
Periodically, I glanced from my window at the darkening sky. The twenty-four-hour circuit of day and night, upon which most of Western time is based, expands to a full twelve months in the far north. There is light enough to fish any time in the summer, and so the arbitrary schedules of passing salmon runs rather than a wristwatch dictate when dories should put to sea. The darknessis absolute in winter, underlined by forbidding temperatures that sometimes dip fifty degrees below zero. The short fall season, therefore, is a blend of both fatigue and melancholy, of final consolidation of the summer's gains and of preparation for the severity of approaching weather. It is a bridge of contemplation, of taking stock, and there is no occasion more appropriate for that practice than when the turning of the tide corresponds to the setting or rising of the low sun. Then, on the best days, the usually ferocious water is tamed into the stillness of a mirror that reflects the red and violet light of the clouds. Immersed in this experience, renowned among Native peoples of the region as a moment out of ordinary time, the only possible response is surrender.
Single-parenthood had, for generations, been the practical norm in my family. My grandfathers and father had all died young, leaving widows to raise children alone and throughextended family networks. My role models were strong, capable mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, and I saw no compelling reason not to continue the tradition. I imagined vaguely that I would someday 'marry, but there were no immediate prospects. For some women, especially in the 1960s, babies preceded husbands. Why couldn't a child come for me before a wife?
The controversial national bestseller that received unprecedented media attention, sparked the nation's interest in the plight of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and touched a nerve in all of us. Winner of the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award.
Michael Dorris' story of his adopted son Adam, born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), explores the enormous scope of the disease and parallels one father's endless battle to overcome the problem. From the author of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -300).
About the Author
Michael Dorris is the author of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, The Broken Cord, Working Men, Morning Girl, and Guests, and co-author with Louise Erdrich of The Crown of Columbus.