Sadly, I had never heard of Susan Power until a few years ago when I came across her name in the American literature textbook that I teach from. She was the mentor author for the opening unit of the text and I put “The Grass Dancer” down to read it. I’ve sadly not read a lot of literature written by Native American authors and that’s something I’ve worked to rectify.
“The Grass Dancer” starts in “current” time on the Dakota reservation in North Dakota. We meet several characters whom we will follow throughout the book. Then the point of view shifts to the ancestors of the characters we meet in chapter one. Each chapter moves backwards in time. Sometimes it’s hard to know how the character is related to the previous characters until there’s a subtle reference that clues us in to the relationship to the characters. Because of the subtleties, the first-half is a slow burn, but once all the connections are made the strength of Ms. Power’s writing shines through. I was particularly moved by one of the last chapters dating back to the early interactions between the Dakota and White settlers.
I highly recommend this book. I’m just disappointed that “The Grass Dancer” is not talked about more often.