Study Guide

Love Medicine Race

By Louise Erdrich

Race

If you know even a little bit about Native American history, you know that there's a lot of reason for tension between Native Americans and European Americans—and that are still a lot of prejudices against Native Americans based on race. C'mon: there are still sports teams with Native American caricatures as mascots, for Pete's sake, and people still throw around terms like "Indian giving."

Given that historical backdrop and its present-day echoes, Love Medicine portrays race-based tensions a powerful presence and important factor in the novel's situations.

Questions About Race

  1. Why do you think Marie is so skittish about mentioning her Native American blood? With basically everyone else, she seems to pretty much do her own thing regardless of what anyone does or thinks, so what do you make of the fact that she's skittish about that particular thing?
  2. Why do you think non-Native Americans are so big on creating representations of Native Americans dying in the novel? What's the psychology there?
  3. What do you make of Henry Junior's flashback to the woman in Vietnam who tried to get Henry to take mercy on him by suggesting that they looked the same? What does this moment do for your overall understanding of what the book is doing with race?

Chew on This

Henry's flashback to the Vietnamese woman suggests a similarity between all races—that is, how little difference there is between people around the worlds, and this superficial similarity in their eyes was just the symbol of that common thread.

Henry's flashback to the Vietnamese woman suggests a similarity between the Ojibwe and the Vietnamese as victims of the U.S. government's policies of violence and aggression.

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