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The Red Convertible

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Fiona Fackler

on 22 October 2013

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Transcript of The Red Convertible


By: Louise Erdrich

Born on June 7th, 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota
Mixed Heritage (Chippewa Native American and German Descent)
Grew up in North Dakota near the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation, which gave her a strong sense of her heritage
Both of her parents taught for the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and encouraged her writing from an early age
Studied at Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins (Anthropology/Writer)
Married fellow writer Michael Dorris, who was also her frequent collaborator, 1981...Unfortunately, they later separated and Dorris committed suicide in 1997
Her acclaimed debut novel, Love Medicine, from which
“The Red Convertible”
is taken, is set on Chippewa reservation in North Dakota
Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1984
In addition to her fiction, Erdrich has published three collections of poetry
It is comprised of fourteen linked stories that span fifty years (1934-1984), narrated by seven characters from three generations
Her Native American heritage heavily influenced her writing
Focused on the Native American's struggle to cope with the government, the church, and individual animosities while trying to find their place in modern society
Considered a leader of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance, a late 20th-Century movement that saw an increase in critically-acclaimed fiction by Native American writers
Frequently compared to William Faulkner because of her regional focus (Turtle Mountain Reservation, like Yoknapatawpha County, is a recurring setting), imagery, and fragmented narrative style
Historical Context:
The story of Henry is being told by his brother, Lyman, in 1974, a year after the Vietnam war has ended, however, the story itself spans over four years (1969-1973)
The Vietnam War
Indian Reservations
Sibling Relationships
(1959 - 1975)
North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front

South Vietnam and the United States
Reason for War:
The U.S. believed that communism in Vietnam would lead to the spread of communism throughout all of Southeast Asia
The first U.S. troops were deployed to South Vietnam and continued to be deployed even as demonstrations, sit-ins, and anti-war songs became common in the 1960s due to the unpopularity of the war back home.
Nixon beats Johnson for the presidency promising "peace with honor," but doesn't make any progress in the war effort
Nixon is reelected
January 1973
All parties sign the Treaty of Paris (Withdrawal of U.S. troops by march from S.V. and a cease-fire)
3-4 million Vietnamese lost their lives as well as almost 2 million Loatians and Cambodians
58,000 Americans died
(Cost us a total of $130 billion)
Vietnam was united under communism in
Indian Reservations
The Chippewa Tribe inhabited the region along the United States/Canadian border from Quebec to the Dakotas
Fur trading with the Europeans led the Chippewas to migrate to the Prairies and change their way of living
The Turtle Mountain Reservation asked the government for a reservaton ( a specific plot of land)
In 1960 about 7,000 people lived on the reservation... 20 years later there were only
Land assigned to reservations is generally unfit for rich crop cultivation
Unemployment is high
Education is lacking
Disease and alcoholism are ongoing problems
Communication between generations is made more difficult by the Americanized schooling received by youngsters
"I was the first to drive a convertible on my reservation. And of course it was red, a red Olds."
"The Red Convertible." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Jennifer Smith. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002. 205-219. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 May 2013.

"Introduction to the Vietnam War." ProQuest. History Study Center. Web. 29 May 2013.

The tome: Erdrich, Louise. "The Red Convertible." Rpt. The American Tradition in Literature. Pg. 2110-2117.
Full transcript