Susan Power. photo ©Rebecca Dallinger Susan Power (1961- ) is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, a descendant of the Sioux Chief Mato Nupa (Two Bears) and of Mary Louise Primeau, and a native Chicagoan. She received degrees from Harvard/Radcliffe and Harvard Law School, and attended the Iowa Writers Workshop where has also been an instructor. In 1995 she won the PEN/Hemmingway Award for Best First Fiction. She is a writer and poet, and also teaches creative writing. Grass Dancer by Susan Power 1994 Strong Heart Society by Susan Power 1999

Grass Dancer by Susan Power 1994 The Grass Dancer

"From the lore of her people, [Susan Power] has spun a consummate work of the imagination. Set on a Sioux reservation in North Dakota, The Grass Dancer weaves a myriad of folk motifs into the fabric of reality, creating a vibrant tale about the connections among generations, about how the actions of our ancestors can affect our contemporary lives - and how their presence resonates in us.

"Back in the 1860s, Ghost Horse, a handsome young heyo'ka, or sacred clown, loved and lost the warrior woman Red Dress, Since then their spirits have sought desperately to be reunited, and it is this ceaseless playing out of this drama that shapes the sometimes violent fate of those who have come after them. Now, in the 1980s, Charlene Thunder, a teenage descendant of Red Dress, is in love with Harley Wind Soldier, the dashing traditional dancer of Ghost Horse's lineage. When Harley's redheaded soul mate, Pumpkin, dies in a crash, Charlene guiltily suspects her own grandmother, the notorious witch Anna Thunder, of causing it - as she may have caused the collision that claimed Harley's father and brother, which even today totally obsesses him.

"Charlene and Harley each strive in solitude to make peace with the ghosts of the old ways, while they contend with the living: Jeannette McVay, an eastern college student who has been studying the tribe; Crystal Thunder, who must escape the reservation in order to understand her past; Herod Small War, whose spiritual guidance is both revered and resented; Margaret Many Wounds, Harley's grandmother who walks on the moon.

"The Grass Dancer glides back and forth through time, mood, and voice - with a mythic lyricism that touched the heart.

I am hitched to the living, still moved by their concerns. My spirit never abandons the Dakota people, though sometimes all I can do is watch. I was there when the army confiscated our horses to cut off our legs. I stood behind the Ghost Dancers, and when they fainted in desperate, useless ecstasy, I blew a refreshing wind into their faces. There have been too many soldiers and too many graves. Too many children packed into trains and sent to the other side of the country. Many times I ran alongside those trains and waved at the bleak copper faces. You are Dakota, I called to them. You are Dakota. One time I stood in front of a chuffing engine and tried to keep it from moving forward, but it blasted through me. I saw the language shrivel, and though I held out my hands to catch the words, so many of them slipped away, beyond recall. I am a talker now and chatter in my people's ears until I grow weary of my own voice. I am memory, I tell them when they're sleeping.

I prefer to watch the present unravel moment by moment than to look close behind me or far ahead. Time extends from me, flowing in many directions, meeting the horizon and then moving beyond to follow the curve of the earth. But I will not track its course with my eyes. It is too painful. I can bear witness to only a single moment of loss at a time. Still, hope flutters in my heart, a delicate pulse. I straddle the world and pray to Wakan Tanka that somewhere ahead of me He has planted an instant of joy."

Strong Heart Society by Susan Power 1999 Strong Heart Society
Hardcover - 304 pages
(not yet published as of 11/13/99)

In her vibrant new novel of spiritual and emotional history, PEN/Hemingway Award winner Susan Power delves under the streets of modern Chicago to uncover its achievements and disgraces, and beneath them, the lives of its native people and settlers. The profoundly engaging voices of three very different Native Americans create a braid of stories--and demonstrate that their intertwined histories are inextricably linked with the very soil on which the city is built.

Synopsis: The stories of three Native Americans -- a Sioux from South Dakota, a Vietnam veteran, and a powwow princess -- emphasize their links with the city of Chicago. By the author of The Grass Dancer.