The daughter of a German father and a Métis (French and Cree or Northern Ojibwe) mother, Erdrich grew up in the small town of Wapheton, North Dakota, where her parents worked at the Indian School, an off-reservation boarding school.
I was climbing the Guthrie Theater here in Minneapolis, where my father’s play was performed this year.
I began to breathe deeply, explosively, but could not help crying out.
Goodbye to vagina, wait, goodbye again to black, brown, purple, gold, mauve, red, bleeding leaves of skin, vulva, and stubborn fickle clitoris that maddened with indifference or was whiplash-sensitive – goodbye. Hands that grasped and pulled and slapped and touched so tenderly beyond my appetite. Ears, neck, earlobes and mouth of a million golden tastes and mouth that knew food of every type and tastes of all description but above all things mouth, goodbye, and goodbye tongue, that loved the kisses and also the body of my husband. Even the physical brain, soon transferred, neural file by file, molecule by molecule, into the liqui-chip. The software drug binds and copies as it eats the living memory.
Goodbye to gut that pinched with hunger or split with gas, goodbye to asshole and nervous sphincter that permitted a loud fart when you laughed in a movie on your first date. And in fact I will feel the feelings of all parts of my body. But the broken body I am leaving behind will be recycled for parts and then sold for remaining mineral content. The liquid memory slowly introduced to the still-living brain.
For one other specific reason, too, Asphodel was most attractive to me. I was not raised in the formality of her religion, and find comfort in literature.
As a consequence, that first morning I was so nervous about the interview process that I refused pain medication. As I was wheeled along the corridor, past the swooping black characters glazed into the hospital tiles, I thought I might have made a mistake. But as soon as the questions began, I regained my concentration. I smoothly volunteered that my father had chosen a premature upload before they were outlawed, and that his decision had been secured since then.
Goodbye sweet lungs with your faint bubbling black carcinogenic lace and your amazed resilience, and heart, dearest heart. Goodbye throat licked and suave collarbone in a low-cut black sheath, and arms that held and clung to other arms and other edifices, arms and legs that climbed and back I never really saw. She, the program, is the reader of my life text who will transfer me into the field.
Goodbye old uterus, old love, old capacious fist, and goodbye outraged liver. The drug contains a disciplined virus that takes instructions and is formulated to mimic and store consciousness – here is the beauty, the complexity – store the individual consciousness in a form that can be siphoned from the brain when loading is complete and then absorbed by Charon.
Stookey 1999 and Jacobs 2001 offer general overviews, while Stirrup 2011 examines the reception of her work and offers possible new approaches.
The Ruoff 1999 afterword is a moving tribute to a friend’s accomplishments, while the Madsen 2011 introductory chapter provides a detailed review of Erdrich’s life and works through The Plague of Doves (2008).