The Native Family Versus the Dominant Culture
in "American Horse" by Louise Erdrich
The current interest in what has come to be called "multicultural" literature has focused critical attention on defining its most salient characteristic: authoring a text which appeals to at least two different cultural codes. (Wiget 258)
Louise Erdrich says she's an emissary of the between-world. (Bacon) "I have one foot on tribal lands and one foot in middle-class life." Her stories unfold where native family and dominant culture clash yet rarely blend, a kaleidoscope of uneasy pieces. The reader becomes the mediator, an observer on the edges as two cultural codes (Wiget 258) collide. She creates dyads: shards of interaction as identities reflect patterns from both cultures.
Born in 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, Louise Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Her heritage includes a French-Ojibwe mother and a German father. With encouragement from her father, she learned to write stories and read William Shakespeare's plays (Giles 44).
Her parents taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs School while her grandparents lived on Turtle Mountain Reservation nearby. She did not study the Ojibwe language or culture until she moved to New Hampshire with her husband, Michael Dorris. She had taking an anthropology class taught by Dorris at Dartmouth, which stimulated her interest in Native American storytelling. Feeling estranged from her family and heritage after moving away, she decided to learn more about the High Plains setting of her stories. (Habich)
During her lifetime, Erdrich probably experienced racism or prejudice because of segregation laws in the fifties. A member of the first coeducational class at Dartmouth in l972, she earned an MA in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. (Habich) She worked at a variety of jobs: life guarding, waitressing, teaching poetry in prisons, weighing trucks on...