Family Photographs: Relationships Among the Generations

Michael Dorris (1945-1997)

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water


  • Born in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • His mother of Irish and Swiss descent; his father of Modoc Indian, French, and English descent.
  • Married writer Louise Erdrich in 1981; separated in October 1995 and pending divorce at the time he ended his life in a New Hampshire motel in April 1997.


  • Received an from Yale University in 1970.
  • Founded the Native American Studies program at Dartmouth College.
  • In 1971, became one of first American bachelors to adopt a child, a boy with fetal alcohol syndrome. This experience was the impetus for his most acclaimed book, The Broken Cord.
  • Dorris and Erdrich, through most of their marriage, a seemingly perfect literary couple. Wrote The Crown of Columbus collaboratively.
  • Sometimes published under the pseudonym Milou North.

Major Writings

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (1984), novel
The Broken Cord (1989), nonfiction
The Crown of Columbus, with Louise Erdrich (1991), novel
Morning Girl (1992), children's novel
Rooms in the House of Stone (1993), essays
Working Men (1993), short stories
Conversations with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris (1994), interviews
Paper Trail (1994), essays
Cloud Chamber, a novel (1997)

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • For reviews of the novel, see The New York Times, May 9, 1987 and June 7, 1987. ("Multiple Perspectives" by Michiko Kakutani and "Eccentricity Was All They Could Afford" by Anatole Brayard), available online at [book archive search: "Yellow Raft in Blue Water"]
  • Native American Authors Project, Michael Dorris page (biographical, bibliographical and critical information)
  • For obituaries and reflections on his life, Newsweek, April 28, 1997, pp. 68-69 ("An Imperfect Union" by Elizabeth Gleick) and Star Tribune, August 3, 1997, pp. 1, 10-13 ("The Anguished Life of Michael Dorris" by Collin Covert).
  • Mixed Blood, an essay by Michael Dorris with quotes from the novel.  (Includes some slow loading images--you may wish to turn off images before accessing.)

Retired Discussion Series

Debbie Sturman, Director
425 South Main Street, P O Box 510
Lusk, WY 82225-0510
Phone: 307-334-3490
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