The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[15] “The Years of my Birth”

on January 20, 2013

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich writes absolutely AMAZING yet amazingly simple to understand short stories, usually concerning Native American family and culture. “Years” tells the story of a woman who, crushed in the womb by her twin, is cast off as a cripple, given up by her white family. Adopted by her Native American nurse and raised alongside others on the reservation, the most touching aspect of the entire story is how our narrator builds for herself an entirely new family after being so cruelly rejected by her biological one.

The color imagery of the color and confusion that is attached to the color white (such as when she’s in the all white room of the institution after the state removes her from her adopted home, and all she can do is scream and cry because of how empty the color makes her feel). It’s especially interesting considering that our main character is a white disabled woman created from the mind of a Native American author. I’m still not quite sure what to make of this social commentary through color symbolism, but I think that’s the subtle force of the story – to have to, as readers, suss out the difference in this narrator’s life opinions because of not just her skin color, but the skin color of her family and the skin color of those she was born to.

To be honest, the ending of the story left be at a bit of a loss for words. I’m not sure what to do with the narrator’s biological brother in need of a kidney but laughing manically in her face because she suggests that he may owe her something if she donates an organ to him. What I do know, though, is that the underlying feelings of rage and indifference in the story is  visceral, a punch in the emotional gut. I’m not sure that the right question to ask is “why”. Erdrich does a delightful job with her direct diction and treatment of cultural conflict.

I got this story from America’s Best Non-Required Reading 2012, which if you don’t own you should – if for no other reason than Ray Bradbury dictated the introduction, and it was one of the last things this  genius mind ‘wrote’ before he passed away.

Story Rating: Okay


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