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The Grass Dancer

The Grass Dancer

4.0 4
by Susan Power

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Inspired by the lore of her Native American heritage, this critically-acclaimed novel from Susan Power—an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe—weaves the stories of the old and the young, of broken families, romantic rivals, men and women in love and at war...

Set on a North Dakota reservation, The Grass Dancer reveals the


Inspired by the lore of her Native American heritage, this critically-acclaimed novel from Susan Power—an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe—weaves the stories of the old and the young, of broken families, romantic rivals, men and women in love and at war...

Set on a North Dakota reservation, The Grass Dancer reveals the harsh price of unfulfilled longings and the healing power of mystery and hope. Rich with drama and infused with the magic of the everyday, it takes readers on a journey through both past and present—in a tale as resonant and haunting as an ancestor's memory, and as promising as a child's dream. 


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Captivating...a healing vision that goes to the core of our humanity."—New York Times Book Review

"Stunning...Power steeps us in the traditions and culture of contemporary Indian life."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Extravangantly inventive...a book of wonders."—Washington Post Book World

"A wild river of a book. Susan Power writes with a headlong energy and a force that are nothing less than thrilling."—Louise Erdich

"Pure and potent magic, with storytelling that encircles you like wisps of tribal ghosts."—Amy Tan

"Intoxicating...compellingly authentic...Clearly, this author has painted herself a place in the literary landscape."—Chicago Sun-Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A major talent debuts with this beguiling novel whose characters are Dakota Sioux and their spirit ancestors. Covering some of the same themes as Louise Erdrich but displaying her own distinctive voice and transcendent imagination, Power has produced an authentic portrait of Native American culture and characters who are as resilient and tangible as the grass moving over the Great Plains. In interconnected stories that begin in 1981 and range back to 1864, the residents of a Sioux reservation endure poverty, epidemic illness, injustice and--no less importantly--jealousy, greed, anger and unrequited love. The tales begin and end with Harley Wind Soldier, a 17-year-old whose soul is a ``black, empty hole'' because his mother has not spoken a word since the accident 17 years earlier in which Harley's father and brother died. Eventually we discover the true circumstances surrounding that event and other secrets--of clandestine love affairs, of childrens' paternity--that stretch back several generations but hold a grip on the present. Meanwhile, Harley falls in love with enchanting Pumpkin, an amazingly adept grass dancer whose fate will make readers gasp. Mercury Thunder and her daughter Anna use magic in a sinister way, and tragedy results. Herod Small War, a Yuwipi (interpreter of dreams), tries to bring his community into harmony with the spiritual world. The existence of ghosts in the real world is accepted with calm belief by the characters, who know the old legends and understand that the direction of their lives is determined by their gods and ancestors. Power weaves historical events--the Apollo Moon landing; the 19th-century Great Plains drought--into her narrative, reinforcing the seamless coexistence of the real and the spirit realm. A consummate storyteller whose graceful prose is plangent with lyrical metaphor and sensuous detail, she deftly uses suspense, humor, irony and the gradual revelation of dramatic disclosures to compose a tapestry of human life. Seduced by her humane vision and its convincing depiction, one absorbs the traditions and lore of the Sioux community with a sense of wonder reflecting that with which the characters view the natural world. This is a book that begs to be read at one sitting, and then again. A chapter appeared in The Best American Short Stories 1993. BOMC and QPB selection. (Aug.)
Library Journal
In this magical first novel, Powers threads together contemporary Native American reservation life with the legends of her Dakota Sioux ancestors. (LJ 10/1/94)
School Library Journal
YA-Rich in myth and legend, this powerful story of the Dakota Indians flows seamlessly back and forth in time from 1864-1982. In the mid-1860s, a young Sioux maiden, Red Dress, translates the sermons of Father La Frambois but deliberately misinterprets the Jesuit's message, through which he hoped to convert her tribe. In a dream, she sees herself in a western settlement and is compelled to journey to Fort Laramie where she observes the violence, hypocrisy, and emptiness of frontier life. Here she becomes secretary to the zealous Rev. Pike, and falls victim to the ultimate treachery when she is murdered by the crazed preacher. In a moving ceremony immediately after her death, the grief stricken Ghost Horse symbolically marries Red Dress. He lives on as a sacred clown and frenetic dancer among his people. The memory of these two restless spirits haunts generations to come with illustrative signs, mysterious visions, and fateful interference. The strength of the novel lies in the meshing of the various stories of the descendants of Red Dress and Ghost Horse so that they all come together in one piece. The result is a passionate portrayal of universal human emotions and a vivid account of Native American history and culture.-Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Mary Ellen Quinn
In an impressive debut, Power writes about her people, the Sioux of North Dakota. Each chapter can stand alone as a short story, but recurring characters provide unity, and the book takes on added depth and resonance as the stories unfold. Power follows her own chronology, moving back and forth across time and generations, layering the voices of the old and young, the living and the dead. Among the voices are those of Anna Thunder, who tries to run the lives of her daughter, Crystal, and her granddaughter, Charlene. Red Dress, Anna's ancestor, narrates the story "Snakes," in which destiny takes her to Fort Laramie to exact revenge for crimes against her people. Red Dress still presides over the tribe in dreams and visions long after she has died. In the especially beautiful "Moonwalk," Margaret Many Wounds lies dying while her twin daughters, Evelyn and Lydia, are busy in the kitchen preparing her last meal, a bowl of Sioux corn soup, and the television broadcasts astronauts walking on the moon. Death for Margaret means a moon walk of her own. Her daughter Lydia marries Calvin Wind Soldier, coveted by Anna Thunder. When Calvin is killed, Lydia stops speaking. Later, Lydia and Calvin's son, Harley, is loved by Anna's granddaughter Charlene. The strongest characters are women, except for Herod Small War, and elderly man who in "The Medicine Hole" is confused by his wife's new independence, and follows a vision of the past. Comparisons between Power and Louise Erdrich are probably inevitable, but Power has her own unique vision and voice.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.00(d)
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Louise Erdich
A wild river of a book...

Meet the Author

Susan Power is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a native Chicagoan. She received an A.B. from Harvard/Radcliffe, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short fiction has been published in Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Voice Literary Supplement, Ploughshares, Story, and The Best American Short Stories 1993.

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Grass Dancer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This happends to be one of my favorite books ever it is moving powerful,haunting,vivid, compelling.A pleasure in all respects a sipmly wonderful read filled with the power of these remarkable ancient peoples the Sioux.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Grass Dancer is a profound and moving coming-of-age story filled with the vision and beauty of the Sioux people. Power's lyrical prose and colorful characters make the book a wonderful read.