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Book Club Wed Apr 23 2008

May Selection: The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

The May 2008 selection of the Gapers Block Book Club is The Grass Dancer by Susan Power, her magical debut novel that was first published in 1994, won the Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for first fiction for that year, and was also named an American Library Association notable book in 1995.

The Grass Dancer is a collection of interwoven stories about the residents of a Sioux reservation in North Dakota, but while each chapter can stand apart as a separate story, together the stories create a complex portrait of Native American history and culture. The stories move seamlessly back and forth through time beginning in 1981 and reaching back to 1864 before returning full-circle to 1982.

Pumpkin is the title character, an 18-year-old Menominee woman from Chicago who wants to spend her summer dancing in as many powwows as she can. She is a talented grass dancer, a role traditionally performed by men. She meets the troubled 17-year-old Harley Wind Soldier at an inter-tribal powwow in North Dakota, and the two quickly fall in love. But Pumpkin's tragic fate early in the story sets the rest of the novel into motion as we gradually discover the intertwined lives, dreams and histories which led to the present events. The Grass Dancer is a vivid and magical novel in which spirits from the past continue to exert powerful influence over the present.

About the Author
Susan Power was born in Chicago in 1961 and is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Her mother founded Chicago's American Indian Center, which is still located on Wilson Ave. in the Ravenswood neighborhood. When she was 17, Power was named Miss Indian Chicago, but then she left the city to attend Radcliffe College and Harvard University Law School, where she earned her J.D. Power only practiced law a short time, however, before she decided to pursue writing and returned to school to attend the Iowa Writers Workshop. In addition to The Grass Dancer, Susan Power is also the author of the novel Strong Heart Society and Roofwalker, a collection of short stories and essays.

Further Reading
Find out more about Susan Power at the Voices from the Gaps website, which includes a short biography and a 2000 interview with the writer.

See and hear Susan Power in a 36-minute webcast from her appearance at the National Book Festival in 2003 at the Library of Congress website. [Requires RealPlayer to view.]


Read The Grass Dancer and then join us on Monday, May 19, at 7:30pm at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square to discuss the book. No RSVP is required, and new members are always welcome.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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