Conversations with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris

Overview

Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris, perhaps the most prominent writers of Native American descent, collaborate on all their works. In these interviews, conducted both separately and jointly, they discuss how their writing moves from conception to completion and how The Beet Queen, Tracks, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, and The Crown of Columbus have been enhanced by both their artistic and their matrimonial union. Being of mixed blood and having lived in both white and Indian worlds, they give an original ...
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Overview

Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris, perhaps the most prominent writers of Native American descent, collaborate on all their works. In these interviews, conducted both separately and jointly, they discuss how their writing moves from conception to completion and how The Beet Queen, Tracks, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, and The Crown of Columbus have been enhanced by both their artistic and their matrimonial union. Being of mixed blood and having lived in both white and Indian worlds, they give an original perspective on American society. Sometimes with humor and always with refreshing candor, their discussions undermine the damaging stereotypes of American Indians. Some of the interviews focus on their nonfiction book The Broken Cord, which recounts the struggle to solve their adopted son's health problems from fetal alcohol syndrome. Included also are two recent interviews published here for the first time. In this collection Erdrich and Dorris tell why they have chosen to write about many varying subjects and why they refuse to be imprisoned in a literary ghetto of writers whose only subjects are Native Americans.
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Editorial Reviews

Alice Joyce
Erdrich and Dorris currently share great success as a literary couple with their unique collaborative relationship. The editors have selected 25 interviews for this volume of the Literary Conversations series; together, the interviewers reveal some of the sources of the magic found in the fiction of these two fascinating writers. A striking characteristic surfaces from the slew of similar questions being asked and responded to again and again in these pages. If Erdrich and Dorris have forged a distinctive partnership--and it appears they have--it is due in part to their fearless acceptance of an unprecedented level of creative participation in each other's writing. Admirers should delight in fascinating glimpses of their work process and personal lives.
Booknews
In both combined and separate interviews, all but two previously published, the two most prominent writers descended from Native Americans discuss how their writing, always collaborative, moves from conception to completion, the place of their artistic and matrimonial union, why they have chosen not to limit themselves to Native American themes, and other topics. No bibliography. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich
Though her books are fictional, Louise Erdrich is contributing an evocation of Native American history that has been all too absent from our literature. Rambling across centuries and populating her books with quirky, intense characters, Erdrich creates bittersweet family sagas.

Biography

Award-winning novelist Louise Erdrich grew up in North Dakota, the oldest of seven children born to a Chippewa mother and a father of German-American descent. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 1976 and Johns Hopkins University in 1979, supporting herself with a variety of jobs, including lifeguard, waitress, teacher, and construction flag signaler. She began her literary career as a poet and short story writer and won awards in both fields.

In the late 1970s, Erdrich began a unique collaboration with Michael Dorris, a Native American writer and teacher she met at Dartmouth and married in 1981. In a creative partnership that endured throughout most of their 14-year marriage, each writer exerted a profound influence on the other's work. Although their names appear in tandem on the cover of only two books, Route Two (1990) and The Crown of Columbus (1991), literally everything either one produced during this time was a collaborative effort. In 1995, after a series of tragic setbacks, the couple separated; two years later, Dorris committed suicide.

From the beginning, Erdrich has translated her mixed blood ancestry into chronicles of astonishing power and range. Her bestselling debut novel, the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award winner Love Medicine, is a series of interrelated stories about several generations of Chippewas living on or near a North Dakota reservation. Spanning most of the 20th century, the book dispenses with any sort of chronological time line and borrows narrative conventions from Native American oral tradition. Several subsequent novels pick up characters, incidents, and narrative threads from Love Medicine to form an interconnected story cycle.

In her novels, Erdrich explores complex issues of family, personal identity, and cultural survival among full- and mixed-blood Native Americans, delving into mythology and tradition to extract what is both specific and universal. She has been known to rework material, incorporating short stories into long fiction, rewriting, and revising constantly. She continues to write poetry and is the author of several children's books, as well as a memoir of early motherhood and a travel book. She is also a founder of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis, where she now lives.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Louise Karen Erdrich (full name; pronounced "air-drik")
    2. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 7, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Little Falls, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., Dartmouth College, 1976; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1979

Read an Excerpt

Bill Moyers: Michael said, "Our job as a writer"-singular. Do you realize how incredible that is? "Our job as a writer"-two people writ ng a novel, not one. We think of the literary act as such a solitary invention.

Erdrich: I know. I did when I first began. It was this romantic ego versus the world.

Dorris: You are a romantic ego.

Moyers: So that changed?

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chronology
Life, Art Are One for Prize Novelist 3
Intimate Collaboration or "A Novel Partnership" 10
Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris 19
An Interview with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris 30
Behind Every Great Woman... ? Louise Erdrich's True-Life Adventures 54
Writers and Partners 64
Belles Lettres Interview: Louise Erdrich 70
Louise Erdrich 75
A Novel Arrangement 80
Something Ventured 86
Whatever Is Really Yours: An Interview with Louise Erdrich 94
On Native Ground: An Interview with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris 105
Marriage for Better or Words 115
Two Native American Voices 122
Catharsis After Denial 128
PW Interviews: Michael Dorris 133
Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris 138
Louise Erdrich 151
Tales from a Literary Marriage 157
Double Vision: An Interview with the Authors 168
Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris: A Marriage of Minds 173
An Interview with Michael Dorris 184
An Interview with Louise Erdrich 220
Index 255
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