Michael Dorris Dead at 52

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CONCORD, New Hampshire: Michael Dorris, the author who helped spread awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome with his award winning book "The Broken Cord," has died from an apparent suicide at age 52. According to Concord police, Dorris was found in motel room and apparently suffocated himself with a plastic bag. Part American Indian, much of Dorris' writing focused on the history and plight of Native Americans. "Native Americans: 500 Years After," and "A Guide to Research in Native American Studies," are among his better known works. But his book "The Broken Cord," earned him the most notoriety with a National Book Critics Circle award in 1989. In it, he described his adopted son's battle with fetal alcohol syndrome and helped focus national attention on the illness. In addition to his publications, Dorris was an accomplished anthropologist. He founded the Native American Studies department at Dartmouth College in 1972 and served as its head until 1985. Despite his achievements, Dorris' life was plagued by hardship. In 1991, his adopted son, Reynold Abel, died after being hit by a car. In 1995 another adopted son, Jeffrey, was was put on trial for trying to extort $15,000 from him. The impending divorce from his wife, the novelist Louise Erdrich, added to his travails. Dorris, who was working on a follow-up to "The Broken Cord" entitled "Matter of Conscience," was on leave as an English professor at Dartmouth at the time of his death.