Author: Michael Dorris
Number of Pages: 281
Date Published: 1989
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Set in the early 1970’s, the voice and hand behind The Broken Cord, Michael Dorris, decides that he would like to become a father. Single, and without an ounce of parental experience, Michael applies to adopt a young Native American boy. It is here that the novel begins, and serves as an account of Dorris' struggle to understand the physical and mental impairments of his sweet and loving son Adam. Dorris begins his quest for the answers behind his son’s difficulties and searches to find out more about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is the clinical condition that Michael discovers is affecting his own son. Michael’s account is told with such openness that it would engage the heart of any sensitive, knowledge-seeking individual whether or not those symptoms were found among loved ones or friends.
Michael Dorris explores the disintegrating culture of Native American communities within the United States, of which he was a part of as a child and now values as an adult. The prevalent abuse of alcohol and other damaging substances among these communities is explained and examined by Dorris in both an informative and understanding manner. A product and student of the Native American community, Dorris can show us how two cultures wrestle with such issues. Or, alternatively, how two versions of the "social contract" might try to cope with the human devastation inherent in a woman's consumption of drugs during her child-bearing years. His research led him to the realization that FAS and FAE have been surmised and counseled about in most of Western culture as far back as Ancient Greece.
I recommend The Broken Cord as a personal story, admirably told and exhaustively researched, which will add one more example to our human dilemma to keep rights and duties in balance in the course of our own personal exploration for meaning and justice for the communities of which we are all apart.
Review by Morgan Healy, Lynch '16