Introduction & Overview of The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

Susan Power
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The Grass Dancer Summary & Study Guide Description

The Grass Dancer Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Study and a Free Quiz on The Grass Dancer by Susan Power.

The book tells the story of Harley Wind Soldier, a young Sioux, and several generations of his ancestors. The novel includes nonhuman as well as human characters; the spirit world is an important part of all the stories, and ghosts and magical powers are part of the characters' everyday lives. Long-dead ancestors, such as lovers Red Dress and Ghost Horse, who lived in the nineteenth century and saw the first impact of European-American culture on their own, are still vital figures in Power's twentieth-century characters' lives.

The book's title refers to a traditional Native-American dance, and there are two kinds of grass dancing. A character in the book explains: "There's the grass dancer who prepares the field for a powwow the old-time way, turning the grass over with his feet to flatten it down. Then there's the spiritual dancer, who wants to learn grass secrets by imitating it, moving his body with the wind."

"I cannot tell you where characters come from," Power told Caroline Moseley in thePrinceton Weekly Bulletin. "They come before themes; they come before action. And they sometimes take me places I don't want to go." She told Moseley that the character of Red Dress was supposed to be evil, but when she heard Red Dress's story, she realized Red Dress had reasons for her actions. "She became a heroine, the heart and soul of the book, even though she killed some people who did not deserve to die."

When the book was published, critics praised Power's use of magic, spirits, and myth, and the way she worked them into the characters' everyday lives, showing how they perceived reality and imparting a vividly mystical quality to their often difficult existence. Dani Shapiro wrote in People Weekly that Power's book would "haunt readers— and perhaps [give] them pause to check the sky for ancestors of their own." A Publishers Weekly reviewer hailed Power as "a major talent," and in the Los Angeles Times, Michael Dorris praised her "series of related, beautifully told tales that unravel the intricate stitch of related lives, the far-reaching consequences of chance acts, the lasting legacies of love and jealousy."

Although Power is proud of her dual heritage, she does not want to be called a "Native-American writer." She told Moseley, "I think of myself as an American writer who happens to be Indian."

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This section contains 390 words
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The Grass Dancer from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.