Susan Power

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Not to be confused with Susan Powers, the American painter.

Susan Power (born 1961) (Standing Rock, Dakota) is an author from Chicago, Illinois. Her debut novel, The Grass Dancer (1994), received the 1995 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for Best First Fiction.

Early life and education[edit]

Susan Power was born in Chicago, Illinois and is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe of the Dakotas. Her mother Susan Kelly Power (Gathering of Stormclouds Woman, in Dakota) is also an enrolled member. She is a descendant of Sioux Chief Mato Nupa (Two Bears). At the age of 16, Susan Kelly moved to Chicago from the reservation and started work as a housekeeper. Later she went to law school and became an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. She was also an activist, founding the American Indian Center in Chicago; increasingly important as the city now has 25,000 American Indian residents.[1]

On the other side of Power's family, her father Carleton Gilmore Power is of New England descent and worked as a salesman in publishing. One of his great-great-grandfathers was governor of New Hampshire.[1] She heard stories that inspired her imagination from both sides. Power attended local schools, then earned her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a JD from Harvard Law School.

Change to writing[edit]

After a short career in law, Power decided to become a writer. She worked as a technical writer and editor, reserving her creative writing for off hours. In 1992 she entered the MFA program at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.[2]

Her 1994 debut novel, The Grass Dancer, has a complex plot about four generations of Native Americans, with action stretching from 1864 to 1986. The work received the 1995 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for Best First Fiction.

Power has written several other books as well. Her short fiction has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Voice Literary Supplement, Ploughshares,[3] Story, and The Best American Short Stories 1993. She teaches at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.


  • The Grass Dancer, Putnam, 1994.
  • Strong Heart Society, Penguin, 1998.
  • Roofwalker, Milkweed Editions, 2002.
  • Sacred Wilderness, Michigan State University Press, 2014.


  1. ^ a b Susan Power: Biography and criticism of work, Voices from the Gap, University of Minnesota, accessed 24 July 2014
  2. ^ Caroline Moseley, "'Grass Dancer' evokes past, present", Princeton Weekly Bulletin, 10 March 1997, accessed 24 July 2014
  3. ^ "Susan Power", Ploughshares

Further reading[edit]

  • Botrhner, Amy Bunting. "Changeable Pasts: Re-Inventing History" DAIA 5149 (1997): vol.57, no.12, Sec. A. Pittsburgh U.
  • Kratzert, M. "Native American Literature: Expanding the Canon," in Collection Building Vol. 17, 1, 1998, p. 4.
  • Shapiro, Dani. "Spirit in the Sky: Talking With Susan Power," People Weekly, 8 August 1994: vol. 42, no.6, 21-22.
  • Walter, Roland. "Pan-American (Re) Visions: Magical Realism and Amerindian Cultures in Susan Power's 'The Grass Dancer,' Gioconda Belli's 'La Mujer Habitada,' Linda Hogan's 'Power,' and Mario Vargas Llosa's 'El Hablador'," American Studies International (AsInt) vol.37, no.3, 63-80 (1999).
  • Wright, Neil H. "Visitors from the Spirit Path: Tribal Magic in Susan Power's The Grass Dancer," Kentucky Philological Review (KPR) vol.10, 39-43 (1995).

External links[edit]