Broken Cord: A Family's Ongoing Struggle with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

By: Dorris, Michael; Erdrich, Louise (Editor)

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First edition. 1989 Hard Cover. 300 pp. As a young bachelor over 20 years ago, Dorris was struck by the sudden conviction that he wanted to be a father. Approved for adoption with surprising speed, he shortly met--and fell in love with--a beautiful, undersized three-year-old American Indian, called Adam in this account. Records showed that Adam had an extensive medical history, but Dorris, with the dewy confidence of a new parent, was undaunted--no problems could withstand the forces of devotion and informed intelligence. After years of repeated epileptic seizures and minimal developmental headway, Adam was cautiously diagnosed: he was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a profoundly debilitating, lifelong condition caused by his mother's heavy drinking during pregnancy. As professional anthropologist (he teaches at Dartmouth) and driven parent, Dorris spent years researching FAS, readily observable in the U.S. on Indian reservations; an American Indian himself, he offers alarming profiles and statistics about the high incidence of FAS in the Indian population. But the heartbreak of this preventable disease is felt most pointedly in the stories he tells about Adam's narrow life in a world closed to the effects of imagination. In graceful, unencumbered prose, Dorris ( A Yellow Raft in Blue Water ) bares the frustration of day-to-day living with Adam, admits his rage at his own impotence to make his son's life fuller and eloquently describes moments of pride, hope and--always--love. For in the face of the impossibilities in Adam's life, it was love alone that forced open the reliable, livable world this severely limited young man inhabits, and love that reveals for the father--and his readers--the possibilities that illuminate life within even such painfully narrow horizons. Included are a foreword by Dorris's wife, writer Louise Erdrich, and Adam's story, as told by himself.