A Therapeutic Reader's Response to Michael Dorris's A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Joan F. Kaywell& Sara Anderson Powell
A common retort of parents to their children during the 1950s was, "You didn't come with a manual." Today, parents can benefit from active parenting classes as well as various research-driven manuals on how to raise their children. It is common knowledge that family dynamics are cyclical in nature. In other words, abused kids tend to become abusers themselves because they do not know any other way to parent unless they have sought some type of intervention. The familial cycle perpetuates until an individual makes a conscious choice to learn a new way of parenting. This final chapter presents the stories of three generations of women--Rayona, the daughter; Christine, Rayona's mother; and Aunt Ida, the family's matriarch--and attempts to illustrate the power of reader response theory in helping a "patient" see how one family's dysfunction is passed from one generation to the next.
Ten actual reader responses to this contemporary award-winning novel are offered for discussion. For the purposes of this chapter and because of the problems associated with confidentiality, I agreed to play the part of the "patient." Dr. Sara Powell, a clinical psychologist, provides responses to her "patient's" writing and sometimes a dialogue ensues. Dr. Powell identifies potential issues for Rayona, the teenage protagonist in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, as she seeks her independence. As you read, consider the potential benefit of having a troubled teenager, particularly one with marginal literacy skills, think and write from a novel before venting in a therapist's office. Our goal is to show how it is possible to help disturbed adolescents im-