Power, Susan 1961-

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POWER, Susan 1961-

PERSONAL: Born October 12, 1961, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Carleton (a publishing sales representative) and Susan (Dunning) Power. Ethnicity: "Part Sioux." Education: Attended University of Chicago Laboratory School (high school); Harvard University Law School, J.D.; University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, M.F.A., 1992; attended Radcliffe College..

ADDRESSES: Home—Cambridge, MA. Offıce—c/o Putnam, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016.

CAREER: Writer. Technical writer and editor, 1986-89; Gives writing seminars and lectures. Also worked as a storyteller and secretary.

MEMBER: Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

AWARDS, HONORS: Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for first fiction, 1995, for The Grass Dancer; Iowa Arts fellow, James Michener fellow, Bunting Institute fellow, and Alfred Hodder fellow.


The Grass Dancer (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1994.

Strong Heart Society (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

Roofwalker (short stories and essays) Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.

Contributor to journals, including Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Story; contributor of short stories to anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories of 1993, edited by Louise Erdrich and Katrina Kenison, Houghton, 1993, and Home, edited by Sharon Sloan Fiffer and Steve Fiffer, Pantheon, 1995.

WORK IN PROGRESS: War Bundles, a novel about an Indian community in Chicago.

SIDELIGHTS: Susan Power is the author of The Grass Dancer, a novel about a young Sioux Indian, his teacher, and his ancestors. According to a writer for Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Power "not only presents a history of the Sioux community, but she creates a world where past, present, and future meld together to create a group consciousness, or an ever present notion of connecting spirit." The plot, which takes place in reverse chronological order, portrays the complex relations between members of the Sioux community in North Dakota. "Moving a century backward from the early 1980s and reclosing the loop in the present, the book's series of related, beautifully told tales unravel the intricate stitch of related lives, the far-reaching consequences of chance acts, the lasting legacies of love and jealousy," surmised Michael Dorris in Los Angeles Times. A contributor to Novels for Students noted, "This unusual technique gives the reader a sense of the deep connections between past and present generations in Sioux belief and culture, and events in the novel reinforce this sense of the past being vividly alive."

"Ms. Power, a member of the Sioux tribe, writes with an inventiveness that sets her writing apart from much recent American fiction," remarked Lawrence Thornton in the New York Times Book Review. "The reader responds to the narrative as if it were a series of photographs ranging from the crisp images of a Nikon to grainy daguerreotypes spotted with age. But Ms. Power's method has thematic as well as technical brio, for it also replicated the tribal sense of time and connectedness, reifying a world where ancestors are continually present in everyday life as spirits, memories and dreams." He added, "written with grace and dignity, The Grass Dancer offers a healing vision that goes to the core of our humanity."

A critic for Kirkus Reviews described the prose in The Grass Dancer as "startling and complex," while a reviewer for Detroit News stated that Power's writing is "moving." Stephen Henighan in Times Literary Supplement commented on the strength of Sioux culture throughout the book noting, "This scrupulously wrought novel, deftly fusing traditional story-telling with the forms of contemporary fiction, provides a sparkling demonstration of that culture's continued vitality." "Power chooses to represent indigenous history not as a record but rather as a continuing process whose outcome is still uncertain," related Linda Niemann, a critic for Women's Review of Books. "My mother tells me my ancestors really wanted me to write Grass Dancer," Power told a contributor to People Weekly. "I'm not a person of real faith—but I try to keep an open mind about it."

Power followed The Grass Dancer with a novel titled Strong Heart Society, which addresses Native American life in urban Chicago. In the novel, three Native American individuals explain their link to Chicago. The narrators include a Sioux from South Dakota, a Vietnam veteran, and a powwow princess. Among the many historical aspects included in the book are major events in Chicago's history, such as the Fire of 1871, the Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929, all explained, according to Caroline Moseley of the Princeton Weekly Bulletin, "through Indian eyes."

Power's next book, Roofwalker, is a collection of short stories and autobiographical essays all linked to Native American heritage. The title story is about a young girl whose father leaves her family to return to a reservation with his girlfriend. "Watermelon Seeds" is the story of a pregnant teen, while "First Fruits" is about a freshman girl attending Harvard University. "Power effectively uses vivid, colorful Native American imagery and myths," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The reviewer continued, "her confident voice marks her as a writer with potential." Booklist critic Carrie Bissey commented, "Power, a descendant of America's founding fathers on one side and an Indian chief on the other, is in a unique position to illustrate the complicated process of living 'the Indian way' in today's world." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that Roofwaler provides "an interesting perspective on an unfamiliar world."



Bataille, Gretchen M., and Laurie Lisa, editors, NativeAmerican Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Routledge (New York, NY), 2001.

Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Volume 14, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 91, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Thomason, Elizabeth, editor, Novels for Students, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Booklist, September 1, 2002, Carrie Bissey, review of Roofwalker, p. 59.

Detroit News, September 9, 1995.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1994, p. 730; June 15, 2002, review of Roofwalker, p. 834.

Library Journal, August, 2002, Debbie Bogenschutz, review of Roofwalker, p. 148.

Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1994, p. E7.

New York Times Book Review, August 21, 1994, p. 7.

People Weekly, August 8, 1994, p. 21.

Princeton Weekly Bulletin, March 10, 1997, Caroline Moseley, review of The Grass Dancer.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of Roofwalker, p. 43.

Times Literary Supplement, December 2, 1994, p. 22.

Washington Post Book World, July 24, 1994, p. 3.

Women's Review of Books, January, 1995, p. 23.


Chicago Sun Times Web site,http://www.suntimes.com/ (September 22, 2002), Stephen Lyons, review of Roofwalker.

Milkweed Editions Web site,http://www.milkweed.org/ (November 22, 2002), review of Roofwalker.

New York Times Book Review Web site,http://www.nytimes.com/ (October 27, 2002), Christopher Solomon, review of Roofwalker.

People's Paths Bookstore Web site,http://www.yvwiiusdinvnohii.net/ (January 29, 2004), review of Strong Heart Society.

Primeau Web site,http://www.primeau.org/ (January 29, 2004), reviews of The Grass Dancer, and Strong Heart Society.

Voices from the Gaps Web site,http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (January 29, 2004), "Susan Power, Wanakcha Washtewin (A Rare Prairie Flower)."*