• Born 1954 to German-American father and
French-American / Ojibwe mother
• Raised on reservation – Parents were teachers
at an Indian Boarding School run by the
Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Remember poem
from week 5 – “Indian Boarding School: The
• Member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the
Personal Life (cont.)
• “Author of thirteen novels as well as volumes
of poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a
memoir of early motherhood” (Harper Collins
• Owner of Birchbark Books, small independent
bookstore in Minneapolis:
Personal Life (cont.)
• Was married to Michael Dorris, a contributor
and fellow scholar of Native American Studies,
who committed suicide in 1997.
• Mother of 7 children (three adopted)
• The Red Convertible is a selection from her book
Love Medicine, which won the 1984 Book Critics
• The Red Convertible tells the tale of two brothers,
one of whom goes to fight in the war in Vietnam
and returns a changed man. The convertible of
the title is a possession that they share, and a
central thematic element and metaphor around
which the events of the story rotate.
• Love Medicine is a novel comprised of 18 chapters of
short stories which revisit characters presented in
other chapters. Employs a multi-vocal narrative style,
presenting at times the same stories from different
angles and personal viewpoints.
• The story of the red convertible, in fact, and of Henry’s
death, is told in three different versions throughout the
book. The versions are contradictory in some ways and
also revelatory in understanding the ways in which
different people view the occurrence (Reid 72).
The Red Convertible
Themes to consider:
- WAR, ways in which war changes people, Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Family relationships, brotherhood, empathy.
• Faces of America: Interview with Louise
Erdrich (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
• Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0oIQQhLZWc
• Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd_gA8V9_sA
• Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoXAAupSPwE
Questions to Consider
• Follow the red convertible and discuss its evolution throughout and
relevance to the work. Consider how it is purchased, used, broken,
fixed, and ultimately “drowned.”
• Louise Erdrich’s work often revolves around Native American
themes and characters. As Lissa Scheider points out, however,
Erdrich sees the novel Love Medicine “in terms of its articulation of
‘the universal human struggle’” (2). Discuss the ways in which this
story is indicative of a Native-American cultural viewpoint and ways
in which it is universal.
• Discuss the ending of the story and analyze the symbolism of the
Henry’s death, the red convertible’s destruction, Henry’s last words,
his final actions before entering the water, etc. Consider whether
or not Henry has committed suicide.
• Erdrich, Louise. “The Red Convertible." Growing Up Ethnic in America:
Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American. Ed. Maria Mazziotti
Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Press, 1999. 103-114. Print.
• Erdrich, Louise. “Dear John Wayne.” Unsettling America. Maria Mazziotti
Gillan and Jennifer Gillan. New York: Penguin Books. 1994. 54-55. Print.
• Reid, E. Shelley. The Stories We Tell: Louise Erdrich’s Identity Narratives.
MELUS, Vol. 25, No. 3/4, Revising Traditions Double Issue (Autumn-Winter,
2000), pp. 65-86
• Schneider, Lissa. Love medicine: a metaphor for forgiveness. Studies in
American Indian Literatures, Series 2, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring 1992), pp. 1-13.
University of Nebraska Press