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The Broken Cord

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Michael Dorris raises many issues within his book The Broken Cord. The Broken Cord, a study on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) can be divided into three areas. In the first half of his book Dorris writes on is that of his life as a single half-Indian father and his adopted FAS-effected son Adam. The second half of The Broken Cord relates to the author’s investigation and crusade on FAS and how it effects the American Indian population. Finally, all things being said by Michael Dorris, the author’s FAS affected son Adam closes the book with his own interesting and revealing account of his life.

The Broken Cord

In the first half of The Broken Cord, the author starts out by relating the obstacles he faced and overcame in his quest to adopt Adam. Once Adam came into Dorris’ legal custody, the author began realizing the permanent damage and severity of FAS. A major issue that Dorris faced in his first few years with Adam was that of denial concerning his son’s condition.

In his own words, Dorris says that his “… recognition that Adam had a problem more serious than a ‘slow start’ came in bits and pieces over the course of many years”. As a result, Dorris seems to have often run into a cycle of blaming others for his son’s FAS-related academic and behavioral ineptitude. In one case of many, Dorris became upset with Adam’s school when an administrator stated that Adam had learning problems. Dorris countered, “Learning problems… what learning problems? Who said he has learning problems?” In time, Dorris came to accept that his son had issues that were not going to be totally resolved. Adam had set a pattern of disruptive behavior in the schools he attended. According to Dorris, Adam was “… uncooperative, willful, stubborn, and careless. He touched other students inappropriately, he was perpetually late… he would not stay in his seat”. After Dorris accepted the reality of his son’s condition as FAS, he began to study it. One avenue Dorris took in trying to get a handle on Adam’s FAS was that of researching his deceased parents.

Not knowing much about Adam’s family left Dorris in the dark in ways – and this was another issue. Dorris states that while he maintained that a child’s behavioral problems could be solved through proper nurturing, he also had to face the fact of genealogical issues undeniably at work in Adam. In his own words, Dorris acknowledged that “… Adam carried aspects of his ancestors in every chromosome, in every bead of his DNA string, in every gene”. Therefore, he dug into Adam’s past as a starting point in his investigation on FAS.

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