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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  15,817 Ratings  ·  905 Reviews
Starting in the present and moving backward in time, this is the thrice-told tale of three women... 15-year-old part-black Rayona, searching for a way to find herself...her American Indian mother, Christine, consumed by both tenderness and resentment towards the people she loves...and the fierce and mysterious Ida, the mother and grandmother whose haunting secrets, ancient ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published April 1st 1988 by Warner Books (NY) (first published January 1st 1987)
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Mariah It's the story of three generations of women in a Native American family - and how they cope with various life events. The story is split into three…moreIt's the story of three generations of women in a Native American family - and how they cope with various life events. The story is split into three books: one for the daughter Rayona, the mother Christine, and the grandmother Ida. The more you read into the story the more the puzzle pieces fit together about certain events within the story and why the characters act in a certain way. Really amazing and currently my favourite book!(less)
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Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's something peaceful about envisioning a yellow raft in blue water... Can you picture it? Maybe a warm summer breeze with the heat beating down on you. Serenity. Calmness. Or the vision of that raft floating in all kinds of weather be it torrential winds, waves or the gentle lapping on a windless day. It's solid but prone to taking a beating. It may be chipped or falling apart, but its pieces remain intact, holding it together. A symbol for family, perhaps.

This is the story of Rayona, Chr
Diane S ☔
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three generations of women, the complicated relationships that can be found between mothers and daughters. The novel starts in the present and is told backwards. Starts with young fifteen year old Rayona, trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs, taking care of her mother Christine. Christine who loves too hard and unwisely but tries to be a better mother than she felt hers was. Ida, her story pulls everything together, the reader can then put all the pieces together, cause and effe ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You know, it's strange, you live in a place half your life and yet the sight of it from an unfamiliar angle can still surprise you, it was as though I had never before seen that building, so small and hollowed out against the treeless land."

This quote can be true about a home or a place often visited that we may cherish, or perhaps even abhor, when brought forth from our memories. I also think the same can be true about a person, or persons, that we find ourselves inextricably linked to in our
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an emotionally dense tale of three generations of American Indian Women. It's basically one story told three times from a different POV.
First we hear 15 year old Rayona 's story, who feels everyone has deserted her and now even the one ever-present person in her life, her Mother has abandoned her. Next we hear the version by her mother Christine, who while battling her own demons , basically raises Rayona ,her mixed race daughter, as a single mom alone through difficult times. Lastly we
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Michael Dorris weaves a moving story of three generations of Native American women, whose lives are complicated and twisted, and whose love for one another is buried beneath misunderstanding and lack of communication. At the outset, we are told the story of Rayona’s life, through Rayona’s eyes. She is the half-Indian, half-black daughter of Christine. Her mother seems dissociative and somewhat cruel, and my reaction was to have no sympathy and very little understanding of a mother who would beha ...more
Jan 15, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one, really
So, I made it about halfway through this book before throwing in the towel. Here's why:
1. I'm used to loving a book, or at least being invested in the characters enough that it's hard to put it down. That was not the case with this book. I read it because I had nothing else to do. But stopping at any point was not difficult, and I didn't feel strongly compelled to pick it up again.
2. The story was slow moving, without beautiful prose to make up for the lack of plot. The writing was only so-so.
Carol Brill
What kept this from being a 4 or better for me is an ending I didn't find satisfying. It's a skillfully plotted story with strong writing, well-rounded, sympathetic female characters and a strong sense of place and tradition. This is my second time reading this book, the first time was 10-15 years ago. The strength for me is that it is about 3 generations of mothers and daughters and told in sections from each of their POV. It starts with teenage Rayona's POV, moves to her mother, Christine, and ...more
A high 4.5 stars. I am still considering bumping it up to 5. I really enjoyed this book. Narrated first by the granddaughter, then the mother and the conclusion by the grandmother, this book depicts the struggles of the three generations of women in this contemporary Native American story. Each character's viewpoint contains heartache and secrets. The women are all stoic and brave when faced with adversity - coping in their own ways. I loved them all - Rayona, Christine and Ida. But, especially ...more
Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those studing perspective and/or Native American culture
I must start off this review by saying that, due to lots of input from those who loathed the book with a fiery passion (the juniors from last year who, like myself this summer, were assigned to read Yellow Raft for English III). So before I began this book, I was expecting a trip to Hell and back in the form of tedious writing and hokey plot twists. Now, being that I'd like to think that their oral review had little to no effect on my opinion, I will continue with my blog.
It's no surprise that t
Jan Livingston
May 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has characters that touch your heart and stay with you. I finished this several days ago and still and putting together new ideas and interpretations over the story.
It really highlights the frailty of humanity as well as the deep, abiding damage that can come from secrets; even well intentioned secrets.
the characters live in a world if missed communications which have disastrous long term consequences. the end of the story has a bright, shining candle of hope but it is not certain and
Everly Anders
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I loved about this book was that it was broken up into three sections, each one of them about a different character, a girl, her mother, and grandmother. Every time the point of view changed you felt differently about the caracter. Plus the dialogue was great, we could all learn something from this author.
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, beloved
Cross generational story about three women living on an Indian reservation in Montana. Outstanding.
Ginny Dodge
Jan 12, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After reading A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, I found myself unhappy with the literary merit of Michael Dorris’ novel. The story of three women of Native American descent in the Oregon and Montana area was stated to be a monumental novel. My original belief, upon reading the reviews in the front of the book, was that the novel would be an uplifting portrayal of three women’s journeys throughout life. Unfortunately, my reading appetite was not sated. The typical vocabulary and unexciting plot line l ...more
Socket Klatzker
I have complicated feelings about this book. I read it about 15 years ago, as a high school student. I loved it. I always used it as an example of men being able to write from women's perspectives in an effective way. Previously, I found that I did not get into other male author's attempts, but really felt like Dorris captured female voices honestly especially around objectification and sexualization. I put him in a category of empathic and clear thinking; I put him on a pedestal of the compassi ...more
Jan Priddy
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I taught this novel to high school juniors for many years. One year I had a young man in my class who did not like reading, but agreed to read the first few pages, which got him hooked. He could relate to Rayona and her anger with her mother who drank and partied hard. The student brought the book to me and said, "I can't read the next section because Christine [the narrator of the middle section and Rayona's mother] is too much like my mother." I begged him to read 15 pages and then he could st ...more
Donna Craig
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I honestly didn’t expect to love this book., it turned out to be deeply moving. It is the story of three generations of Native American (Hopi?) women. The interesting thing is that the story is narrated in turns by each woman, beginning with the youngest, then moving to her mother, and, finally, her grandmother. I was intensely captivated by the telling of the same stories in each woman’s perspective. Boy, was I wrong about the grandmother! I NEVER saw that coming! This book skillfully dem ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I whole-heartedly loved this novel. It's a formidable saga of women spanning three generations that is beautifully layered and absolutely unforgettable. It begins with Rayona, my favorite of the three, a young girl of 15 that is as level-headed and independent as she is hardened by circumstance. Her story begins as she struggles with the contradictory natures of her relatives. Half black and half American Indian, she is undeniably striking and exudes both an inner strength and sullen attitude as ...more
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book looked promising and I started out hoping for a really good read. However, there was a lot of the plot that just left you hanging and much of it that I felt was just "silly". Divided into three points of view, some of the characters' stories were much more compelling than others. Unfortunately, all in all I didn't feel like the book was worth the time it took to read.
Mar 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the beginning a lot. I wasn't too keen on the author's rather awkward literary device of switching narrators. Unsatisfying conclusion.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookgroup
He presented the extreme poverty, isolation, and addiction on the reservation in an almost offhand way; these things were mentioned in passing, but in a way that made a big impression on me. I liked his writing but the book didn't totally hold together. There were some characters and some plot elements that didn't work for me.
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water is a novel I won't soon forget. Set in Seattle and Montana, it tells the tale of three Native American women--Rayona, Christine and Ida--each in her own voice. They are related, a family, and their worlds intersect and tear apart, span out and braid back together, but it is not until the ending that the reader fully understands how the events which start the novel have come to pass.

It is told in reverse, starting with the youngest, Rayona or Ray for short. At first,
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book for almost a year waiting to use it for whatever reading challenge I was working on, but I haven't been able to squeeze it in anywhere. So I finally just read it. This was a sad little story, but I absolutely loved the descriptive strokes. I think the author nailed human nature in vivid way.

The 3 MCs were 3 generations of Native American women. I enjoyed each of their sad little stories and they felt well told. However, I'm not sure I liked the format. Each of the 3 POVs were
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first the tale seems straighforward. A teenage girl has an irresponsible mother who abandons her to a cold-hearted grandmother who doesn't want her either. Life on a remote and poverty stricken Indian reservation in Montana has never been easy, especially for a teenager who is half African American. Almost nothing in this absorbing tale is as it first appears. Everyone is holding secrets. Slowly, ever so slowly, events take on new meaning and the characters gain our compassion. The three fema ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
We are given the story of three generations of women told in reverse chronological order. Difficult mother-daughter relationships characterize each story; the wounds of adolescence cripple them from being a good mother to their own daughter. This novel focused on adolescent struggles, even when we were hearing from adult characters, they retained an adolescent voice, perception and focus, giving this book the feel of a young adult novel. The characters never quite came to life for me, despite va ...more
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ruth by: José
Shelves: general-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting character studies, this is the story of three generations of Native American women. We learn about their culture, poverty, and isolation. Two of the three characters are difficult to like, but the reader comes to understand, if not agree with the choices they make. Three and a half stars
Apr 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got creeped out after the author killed himself and more truth came out about his life and his treatment of his foster children. Makes me wonder what really inspired his work as well as that of his wife, Louise Erdrich. At the time I enjoyed the book.
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was my first introduction to a plot and story woven around the Indian Reservations. Rayona, Ida and Christine are still with me after all these years. I mourn the loss of Michael Dorris,still.
Catherine  Mustread
Moves backwards from the 1980s to the 1940s covering the lives of three generations of Native American women in Montana: Rayona, Christine and Ida.
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 3.5 for me - review to come.
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Michael Dorris was a novelist, short story writer, nonfiction writer, and author of books for children

The first member of his family to attend college, Dorris graduated from Georgetown with honors in English and received his graduate degree in anthropology from Yale. Dorris worked as a professor of English and anthropology at Dartmouth College.

Dorris was part-Native American through the lineage o
More about Michael Dorris

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“Don't ask so many questions and they will all be answered.” 11 likes
“How long does it last?" Said the other customer, a man wearing a tan shirt with little straps that buttoned on top of the shoulders. He looked as if he were comparing all the pros and cons before shelling out $.99. You could see he thought he was pretty shrewd.
"It lasts for as long as you live," the manager said slowly. There was a second of silence while we all thought about that. The man in the tan shirt drew his head back, tucking his chin into his neck. His mind was working like a house on fire
"What about other people?" He asked. "The wife? The kids?"
"They can use your membership as long as you're alive," the manager said, making the distinction clear.
"Then what?" The man asked, louder. He was the type who said things like "you get what you pay for" and "there's one born every minute" and was considering every angle. He didn't want to get taken for a ride by his own death.
"That's all," the manager said, waving his hands, palms down, like a football referee ruling an extra point no good. "Then they'd have to join for themselves or forfeit the privileges."
"Well then, it makes sense," the man said, on top of the situation now, "for the youngest one to join. The one that's likely to live the longest."
"I can't argue with that," said the manager.
The man chewed his lip while he mentally reviewed his family. Who would go first. Who would survive the longest. He cast his eyes around to all the cassettes as if he'd see one that would answer his question. The woman had not gone away. She had brought along her signed agreement, the one that she paid $25 for.
"What is this accident waiver clause?" She asked the manager.
"Look," he said, now exhibiting his hands to show they were empty, nothing up his sleeve, "I live in the real world. I'm a small businessman, right? I have to protect my investment, don't I? What would happen if, and I'm not suggesting you'd do this, all right, but some people might, what would happen if you decided to watch one of my movies in the bathtub and a VCR you rented from me fell into the water?"
The woman retreated a step. This thought had clearly not occurred to her before.”
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