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The Grass Dancer

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,410 ratings  ·  90 reviews
From the 1860s, when two lovers are separated by death, the cosmic drama of the two spirits desperately seeking to be reunited molds the lives and fates of their descendants, in a lyrical debut novel shaped by the lore of the Sioux. A first novel. 50,000 first printing.
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published August 3rd 1994 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 1994)
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Zoe Brooks
I loved this book and could hardly bear to put it down. In fact it is now one of my favourite magic realist books, which is saying a lot (this is the 116th review on this blog). There are some books that you should read in one sitting or as near to one as you can get. This is one such book. Each chapter in the book is almost a separate story, narrated by different characters at different times (it is important to make a note of the year that appears under each chapter heading). This patchwork of ...more
Challenging but worthwhile exploration of some of the historical, mystical, and generation influences on the Lakota of the northern plains. I've enclosed (in the copy I released via bookcrossing) printouts of a couple of brief reviews that I wish I'd read before I read the book as said reviews would've helped me understand what I was getting into better.

This book is part historical, part magical realism with supernatural elements. It follows the lives a various members of the Sioux Nation starting in the 1980s and going back into the 18 hundreds. It was very interesting reading about things that we would consider paranormal but that were considered to be real in traditional Sioux culture. One of the characters is a Sioux witch, a rather evil one and there are also ghosts and a shaman. Long-dead ancestors still make appearances in modern life.
I like the structure of the book--the way the story was told in reverse. Before reading the book, I read that the story was multilayered and a bit complicated to follow but I disagree. The story and characters were well developed but I was not crazy about the content. I'm not Dakota so I can't assess whether some of the information Susan Powers included was appropriate or not. When I thought about the "equivalent" information of my people and if an author included it in a novel, I would think it ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Aug 25, 2013 Christina (A Reader of Fictions) rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christina (A Reader of Fictions) by: Ann Kristin
Shelves: sadie-hawkins
Right from the beginning, I knew that Susan Power's The Grass Dancer was a book I never would have picked up on my own. Though I'm generally up for reading about any culture, I've been burned by a couple about Native Americans, so I'm hesitant to read them. Still, that's not something I'm proud of and is certainly no reason to write off all of those books, so, when this showed up in Sadie Hawkins, I figured I'd give it a try. While I didn't precisely dislike The Grass Dancer, I didn't really lik ...more
I found this book really interesting. Parts of it were frustrating and at times I feel like I didn't understand what was going on. There were one or two characters that I absolutely hated, but I feel like that was the point. The author then managed to bring me to pity the one character I detested throughout, so I guess that's pretty impressive.

One thing that this novel did was get me really interested in the Sioux Indian tribe. I feel like I want to go on to read other Native American fiction o
This novel is very different from most that I've been reading. It tells the story of three generations of Dakota Sioux living on a North Dakota reservation. There are multiple narrators and the story is not told in a linear way, but moves back and forth through various points in time between 1864 to 1982. There are ghosts, spirits, and visitations from ancestors. There are many characters to keep up with and due to the shifts in time, which has characters disappearing and re-entering the plot ch ...more
A lovely novel depicting the lives of multiple generations of Plains Indians. My publisher, Sharmagne Leland St-John, has purchased the film rights and is working on a screenplay. I'm a little mystified how this can be made into a film, but I can't wait to see it!
Darcy McNeill
It took me back to the days when all I had to worry about was if my boyfriend was ever going to tell me he loved me. Days when going to PowWow's was our summer vacation and we looked forward to it as if we were going on a trip to Disney Land.
Deborah Kades
I read this volume of loosely related short stories for a book group. Most of the members liked it better than I did. The characterization is weak and the plot is weaker. The metaphysical aspects were too facile. Good idea not fully developed.
Heidi Garrett
The Grass Dancer a collection of vignettes about mostly women—mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers—in a Sioux tribe in North Dakota. It's sad. I mean it's really sad. The writing is beautiful, lit up with magical realism, but the stories and the breaking and broken relationships are so sad. Eleven stories that move back and forth in time they eloquently capture the Sioux way of seeing the world. I love that part, their visions and dreams and belief in them. I just wish... there had been... ...more
Jan 06, 2015 Samantha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Man, oh man.

This novel blew me away. My professor for my Native American Literature course added this to the list of novels we'd read in class, and although I wasn't expecting my professor to change the day class began, this book was exceptionally well-written and engaging for a variety of reasons.

What I love about this novel is the interaction between the characters, and the role that past events and people play in the lives of the main characters. It isn't about how the past controls an indi
Set in the North Dakota Sioux reservation between 1864 and 1982 this tells the tale of Charlene Thunder and Harley Wind Soldier – classmates at Saint Mary’s High School and youngest members of two intimately interwoven families. Charlene yearns for Harley’s attention, but he does not reciprocate the affection. As the tale opens, Harley becomes captivated by a visiting young woman, Pumpkin, who is a grass dancer (a rare thing) who beguiles him at the opening pow wow, but Charlene can wait. All th ...more
Dec 30, 2010 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Laura Furlan
Required reading for Am Ind Lit at UMASS-Amherst. Teetered on giving this one 5 stars because it really wraps up well...but I didn't have the anticipatory excitement of reading it that I normally would for a truly great book. A good read...funny, emotional, 'sall good.

See below for my essay, my final ten-pager for Am Ind Lit:

One Story: A Synthesis of Assimilation, Rebellion, and Rediscovery in Susan Power’s The Grass Dancer

This essay will address the role of stories in Susan Power’s The Grass
Kate Barber
Within Susan Power’s novel The Grass Dancer, she works through all the aspects of Edward Said’s "other" theory, from the expansion of America through its belief in manifest destiny and it’s increasing population, resulting in the Native American’s being forcibly restricted to reservations, the historical confrontation that still maintains itself today, and afterwards the sympathy and stereotypical classification of the Native American culture and tradition. However, Power uses her novel to subve ...more
James Badger
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I was going to. At first I thought I might have another "Tracks" by Louise Erdrich on my hands (well-written, but ultimately frustrating and unsatisfying). Turns out this is just an interesting story that becomes more complex and interrelated with each chapter. This is Native American fiction as it should be written (said the white guy).

The chronology in this book moves backward with multiple narrators, which is a bit of a trip until you get used to
This book is absolutely incredible. A story of ghosts, of memories, of tradition and magic, of past and present and breaking and healing . . . it left me breathless.

In a narrative spanning four generations of Dakota Sioux, this book is a tribute to an entire people. I can't say whether it's an accurate portrayal or not, but it's most certainly a powerful one. It takes you out of your own world and sets you down in the middle of a North Dakota reservation, our of your own mindset and into the min
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrea Stoeckel
I read Powers' book Roofwalker last year and reviewed it. Grass Dancer was her first book, and her latest, Sacred Wilderness is just coming out.

Powerfully written series of stories about the descendants of two families whose lives intertwined because of choices they made very long ago. These stories are powerful snapshots of Rez life now and then, and how a choice can truly affect a familial historicity

Power is a wonderful writer with a wicked sense of humor!
I found this a compelling read, tho I felt sometimes confused by the myriad of characters, and their connection to one another.

I see this as a set of stories describing Dakota Sioux mythology. The whole does not come clear to me. I've seen that other readers have given this book excellent reviews, yet I feel it could have been more tightly woven, and thus more accessible. I'm open to magic, and to spirituality; I just couldn't get quite into the flow here.

Easy to understand is the Sioux anger to
I read this book ages ago, re-read it a couple of years later. I haven't picked it up in a while, and I'm almost afraid to. It's a story of a Native American family through several generations. There are a lot of fantasy and imagined elements that I worry I might not find as captivating as I did when I was younger, and had just visited the Badlands of South Dakota.
There is one scene that has made a permanent imprint on my imagination. A group of young friends drive through the black hills during
Trisha Owens
I thought this was fairly interesting...Set in North Dakota, follows the lives of the old and the young, and all the intricacies of Native life. Contains parts where the older Natives have visions and use the power from them to affect other's lives.
Jane Routley
Loved this although its taken me 10 years of ownership to read. Glad I kept it. A connected collection of sort stories about modern Sioux life that makes up a single narrative. It was such a great look into another view of the world, one that makes the familiar exotic and different. I felt like I've journeyed to another world. It left me with the sense of wonder that you usually have after a fantasy novel. But this is lit fic and very well written. Great characters, pumpkin the grass dancer, Cha ...more
I just needed a chart to follow all the relationships more easily but other than having to back track a little, thoroughly enjoyed this book.
A magical book which took me away into Native North American traditions, weaving through history and teaching many great human morals along the way. The story method itself was unique, and Susan Power writes her ideas and traditions freely, never without hiding the mystery of the Native people.

It did get a bit confusing at times due to the amount of characters the story tries to tie together, and while reading do remember the first two chapters are more important than they seem - I kept needing
I read this book as a pre-teen. I remember loving it and was delighted to see it come up on GoodReads as a reading suggestion.
This is a book I would have never picked out for myself. It was chosen for book club. It's a well-written collection of short stories centered around central characters who have stories woven around each other and lives layered over lives. Despite the short stories in a novel format, I found this to be a quick and intriguing read. Be warned though, it isn't a happy book. The stories are dark and sad - as one of the club members put it "in each story someone either dies or gets laid, or both".

Peggy Troyer
Not in-your-face gritty political like Sherman Alexis, but a great description of an Amerindian experience.
This book was sad...very sad. But the writing was beautiful and I loved how everyone's stories intertwined. This book is not terribly uplifting but it is a wonderful story.
In a tale spanning over a hundred years and two families Susan Power explores how the religion and culture of a group of Native Americans living in a close knit community. While the story itself is diverse enough to engage interest the truly engaging aspects are driven by the interweaving of spirituality and daily life. The characters were understandable although not as layered as I would have liked. Instead of any difinitive ending the author closed the novel with a sense of continium which was ...more
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Grass Dancer 9-11 and short stories 1 3 Feb 19, 2013 01:43PM  
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  • Winter in the Blood
  • Power
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  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • La Maravilla
  • The Antelope Wife
  • The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
  • Waterlily
  • How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002
  • Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present
  • Bear Daughter
  • Shell Shaker
  • The Way to Rainy Mountain
  • Ohitika Woman
Susan Power is a Standing Rock Sioux author from Chicago. She earned her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a JD from Harvard Law School. After a short career in law, she decided to become a writer, starting her career by earning an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
Her fellowships include an Iowa Arts Fellowship, James Michener Fellowship, Radcliffe Bunting Institute Fellowship, Prin
More about Susan Power...
Roofwalker Sacred Wilderness Strong Heart Society Prentice Hall Literature Grade 11 All-in-One Workbook Answer Key Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers

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“She had always been different, even when she tried not to be, unable to curb her curiosity which led her to read a great number of books. Her world was constantly expanding until she could no longer fit herself into the culture that was most important to her.” 10 likes
“Because I have willed it. And I am not a fairy tale.” 9 likes
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