A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

4.0 30
by Michael Dorris

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Starting in the present and moving backward in time, this is the thrice-told tale of three women—15-year-old part-black Rayona, her American Indian mother, and the fierce and mysterious Ida.  See more details below


Starting in the present and moving backward in time, this is the thrice-told tale of three women—15-year-old part-black Rayona, her American Indian mother, and the fierce and mysterious Ida.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This spare generational novel presents Rayona, Christine and ``Aunt'' Ida, Native American mothers and daughters bonded by blood and secrets. PW found that this masterful debut, by a Dartmouth professor of Native American studies and the husband-collaborator of Louise Erdrich, ``glows with compassion and integrity.'' (April)
Library Journal
A powerful novel of three generations of American Indian women, each seeking her own identity while forever cognizant of family responsibilities, loyalty, and love. Rayona, half-Indian half-black daughter of Christine, reacts to feelings of rejection and abandonment by running away, not knowing that her mother had acted in a similar fashion some 15 years before. But family ties draw Rayona hometo the Montana reservationas they drew Christine, and as they had drawn Ida many years earlier. As the three recount their lives, often repeating incidents but adding new perspectives, a total picture emerges. The result is a beautifully passionate first novel reminiscent of Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine and The Beet Queen , but a strong work which should be read and enjoyed for its own merits. Highly recommended. Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
School Library Journal
YA The emotional terrain of lives led without the steady presence of fathers or husbands is common ground for the three generations of American Indian women who successively tell their stories in this absorbing novel. Rayona, 15, half black and half Indian, is abandoned by her mother and in turn abandons her Aunt Ida. She disappears from their Montana reservation one summer and gains independence through a job at Bear Paw Lake State Park and a surprising foray into rodeo stardom. Her mother faces what appears to be the last days of her often wild life in the kind company of a misunderstood man who was both a childhood friend and enemy on the reservation. Linked to both is Aunt Ida, the stony family matriarch who lost her favored son to the Viet Nam War and now warms her heart before the electronic fires of television soap operas. The bitter rifts and inevitable bonds between generations are highlighted as the story unravels and spills out a long-kept family secret. Rayona wishes that if she could stare long enough at a yellow wooden raft in the blue waters of the lake, her troubles would be resolved. Readers, too, will wish for the best in the lives of these wonderfully unique characters. Keddy Outlaw, Harris County Public Library, Houston
From the Publisher

“Earns admiration from first page to last...Suspenseful, constantly gripping, original in its characters and settings, and finally, profoundly moving.” —People

“The writing here is powerful and deeply evocative of scene and place. Michael Dorris has created a set of characters so real that they seem to acquire lives of their own, almost, off the printed page.” —Mademoiselle

“Dazzling.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Spellbinding.” —Los Angeles Times

“Memorable...Marvelous.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Vivid, intense...straight from the heart.” —Newsday (New York)


Earns admiration from first page to last...Suspenseful, constantly gripping, original in its characters and settings, and finally, profoundly moving.

The writing here is powerful and deeply evocative of scene and place. Michael Dorris has created a set of characters so real that they seem to acquire lives of their own, almost, off the printed page.
San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles Times

The Washington Post Book World

Newsday (New York)

Vivid, intense...straight from the heart.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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Yellow Raft in Blue Water 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Chancie 9 months ago
A uniquely written novel, and while it wasn't my cup of tea, it's worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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helper27 More than 1 year ago
It starts with the youngest persons life story and then works it's way back in generations. Rayona is a third generation Native American girl who never quite seems to fit in anywhere. Her father is a black man, her mother Indian. Her parents separate while Rayona is very young. Rayona is raised by her mother who likes to party and likes her men. We see life through the eyes of a teenager. Rayona is looking for love and acceptance but always seems to come up short. She does find one couple who takes her in and helps her find her way back home. Christine is Rayonas mother. She is a tough, good looking Indian woman that is up to any challenge a boy can throw at her. She seems to need to prove she can beat the boys. She also uses her looks to hook up with any man she pleases, even married ones. She does not feel guilty about what she does. Life on the reservation is difficult and Christine dreams of leaving. Christine is very fond of her brother Lee and their relationship is a close one. Christine moves off the reservation to Washington state. Christine lives the life of her choosing. Lee enlists in the army. Christine gets word that he is MIA. She meets an army man in a bar in Tacoma. The man comforts her and gives her hope that things will be alright for Lee. The army man is due to be discharged in two weeks, his name is Elgin. Christine and Elgin become intimate. One day at a park in Washington they create Rayona. Elgin says no baby of his will be born without the two of them being married. They marry but within a couple months after Rayona's birth Christine moves out. Out of sight does not always mean out of mind. Neither of them ever seems to get completely over the other one. An interesting story unfolds. Christine eventually leaves Washington and goes home to the reservation. There she leaves Rayona with Aunt Ida and walks away. Aunt Ida is an interesting character. She is mother to Christine and Lee but never lets them call her mother since she isn't married. Ida insists on being called Aunt Ida. We find out about Ida's life. We view her past and get the stories behind Christine and Lee and how they came to be in her life. She is a solitary figure that isn't overly warm. She speaks only Indian and keeps her conversations short.
vampirefantaiccc More than 1 year ago
I wasn't entirely sure if it would be one that I would be able to finish, then again it was on my summer reading list, so I would have to put up with it if it got dull. But it didn't. It did the exact opposite. It got more interesting. Christine annoyed me from Rayona's point of view. And Aunt Ida annoyed me from both Rayona and Christine's point of view. But I think somewhere during her section (Aunt Ida's), I started to like her better. She had so much more to tell than either of her descendants, although they weren't as direct as we thought them to be. I'm so glad that I read this book. It taught me a lot about life. About longing for acceptance and understanding, a desire to fit in, a desire to find and experience true love. Although each theme seemed a tragedy in the book, ultimately, everything turned out fine. The relationships confused me slightly, though. But all in all, this is defiantly a book to read. If it's dull to you at first, just keep on reading it, it'll get better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The novel and its overlying plot are readily accessible to readers. The underlying connections and lessons of life are easily overlooked by the younger reader, but the more mature readers will find great depth of meaning and life lessons. Perhaps the most important issue is that the characters and situations are more true to life than many readers would like to admit. Secrets lead to misunderstandings that alter the lives of the three main characters. A great read. My college students enjoy the reading and its interesting layers of meaning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first I cannot say I found this book good or interesting at all for that matter, but once I got into the characters I couldn¿t put it down. Yellow raft in blue water is about three characters told in three separate stories first Rayona a 15 year old girl dealing with the normal problems of being a teenager as well as her mom ¿Christine, leaving her with the mysterious ant Ida and being a mixed ethnicity in a all Indian reservation. Than Christine: the connector of the stories. About all the problems she had, most of them having something to do with her brother lee or Aunt Ida. Than finely ending with Aunt Ida I won¿t say any thing about this except that it was the most interesting and even more surprising part for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yellow raft in blue water is the story of there women who change because of each other. Rayona the half-black half-indian teen that isn¿t comfortable in her own skin. Christine is Rayona¿s mother a woman who lives a life that she can¿t afford and her health can¿t bear and Ida, Christine¿ mother is a hard cold woman hiding a huge secret. Michael Doris has shown you the characters incredibly well. They are imagintitive and complex, they seem like really people, and you can sort of get in their head. The problem is that it takes a long time to ¿get inside¿ their head. Michael Doris always clearly tells you what they are thinking, but until the middle or close to the end of each part (the story is in three parts each one through the eyes of a different one of the characters) their thoughts just aren¿t that interesting to read about. The other thing is that what they think makes the characters just plain unlikable through out the whole book. Rayona can be bland and submissive, Christine can¿t control her emotions and has a `don¿t-care¿ attitude that really bothered me, Ida is so harsh and negative that even when you hear her side of the story you still don¿t like her that much. I¿m not really the type of person who enjoys books where there isn¿t at least one person who you really like and can feel sorry or happy for. For some people though this is the perfect book. So if you like deep, thought-out, intense characters even they if aren¿t really likeable and a long plot it¿s the right kind of book for you. Because the book is in three parts it hard to know who the main character is. Is it Ida who influences every thing that happens to Christine and Rayona, but not that much happens to her herself? Or Christine, who gets both Ida and Rayona affecting her, but also had her own story to tell? Or Finally Rayona the youngest character who hasn¿t really had that much happen to her yet, but when it had its¿ been dramatic? Each person who reads this book had a different character that they thought was the main or that they liked the most, but you can¿t really decide until you have finished the whole thing. I found that at first I thought Rayona was the main girl and the most likeable, really just because her story is part number one in the book. Then I decided that she was too submissive, quiet, and even a little bit boring so I switched to Christine. Then I felt sorry for Ida, but when I had read them all and was done with that I would have to say that I think Christine is that ¿protagonist¿. She has both Rayona and Ida pushing her in different ways and influencing her, but she still had her own separate story to tell. Also she really shows the clearest changes from beginning to end, making her in my mind the most likeable. It is undoubtedly a good book, but it¿s not really a page turner, stay up late to finish type read. So it¿s not the book for me, but I¿m sure that for some people this is exactly the book for them so don¿t let my opinions stop you from reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water is an engaging book, which leaves you wanting more you won¿t want to put the book down! This book is about three generations, ¿Aunt¿ Ida, the grandmother and mother who you can never figure out, who doesn¿t want to be known by not having a husband and especially doesn¿t want her daughter to carry that reputation, Christine the Native American mother in search of a better more exciting life off the reservation, and Rayona, the half black and Indian daughter, who spends the book in search of what she thinks, is ¿love¿ from herself and others. As this book goes back in time mysteries about why things are they way they are, are revealed. The story is very well written and both settings in Seattle and Montana are described in a detailed enough way, that you can picture each scene, without being there. By the end of your story you will be satisfied.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone may have their own opinions about the book, but I have found the book to be very boring and confusing. For me to enjoy a book it would have to really capture me in the beginning and this book failed to do so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in high school and my entire class loved it. As an English major I have read many books, but still this book remains to be my favorite. I've picked it up recently to read it again and found that it was even more captivating the second time around. I did not think that the book was disgusting. I felt that those portions of the book were necessary and were put there to simply portray some of the ugliness that can occur in society today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yellow Raft in Blue Water is one of favortie books. I thought that it was cool how Dorris wrote about Rayona, Christine, and Aunt Ida. I did not think that it was disgusting or dirty. I love this book and would recommend it to anyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really got tired of all the sex and cussing. I understand that that's art, but I never would have read this book had it not been required for my honors English class at school. I couldn't stand it... it was disgusting. I hated it. Books should seriously come with ratings on the back... I'm sick of buying books and finding out that I might as well just go see an 'R' rated movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in high school and recently picked it up again. I was riveted by it then, and am riveted again, 10 years later. Rayona is very likable and easy to connect with. It is such a truthful book in that our problems are not only ours, but will be carried down through the generations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have you ever had someone in your life that hurt you and you couldn't forgive? Trying reading this book and find out what Rayona did when her mother chose her beer and partying over her daughter. If you have ever went through a part in your life that you felt like no one cared and you didn't know what to do Rayona will let you know.This book has helped me to not give up hope of my daughter and her dad ever bonding because they will some day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Personally I enjoyed reading this book. The story takes place on an Indian reservation in Montana. There are three perspectives that are narrated by each main character how their lives are enter twined with each other and how they seem to not want to have anything to do with each other and return to the reservation to find their lives are together there. I recommend this book to all readers, rather for fun or for a book report.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book. Recommended for all young adults.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although a lot of these reviews say it's great...this is one of the worst books I have EVER read...and that's saying something. I read at least a book a week, so to say that this is one of the worst is bad. I had to read this for an English project and my partners could also barely get through it..It tells you the story from three different points of view, yet the story keeps getting worse and worse each time. It's about a family who has almost nothing right in their life...but it just keeps getting worse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book one summer while on vacation, and couldn't put it down. Michael Dorris skillfully weaves together the stories of Rayona, Christine, and Aunt Ida, three strong women whose differences often cause conflict. As the women's individual stories unfold, Dorris shows us that things aren't always as they seem to be. This is a very powerful book, and I recommend it highly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this novel over the summer as a school assignment. I automatically assumed it was going to be boring because of this. Let me say that the blurb on the back of the book does not do it any justice. I definately proved myself wrong, and thoroughally enjoyed this novel. The story evolves as it moves up through three generations, begining with Rayona, then her mother, then her Aunt Ida. 'Ida' is the best part!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A summer reading english project led me to 'A yellow raft...'. All my relatives sortof circled around me chanting in unison 'I loved it' 'it was amazing' 'I loved it' etc. Alright, maybe they didn't, but I heard that so much they might as well had. I ended up following their lead and reading the book, looking forward to an amazing novel, and that's what I got. although some parts were confusing, or strange, the overall book was gripping, inspiring and exteremely entertaining! 'I loved it'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like so many books of this genre, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water makes you laugh, cry and grow to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each character. I would recommend that anyone read this book, in fact, I'd recommend that you read it twice! :-)