By Alan S. Kessler
Release Date: July 2021
Genre: Historical Novel, Coming of Age
Formats Available For Review: Print (limited quantities), pdf
Ghost Dancer is an historical novel interweaving mystical elements in a coming-of-age story. It is an eclectic tale with an intriguing outsider; a protagonist grappling with her identity who, though once a sorrowful girl, becomes a young woman able to fight prejudices and overcome self-doubt. There is also a serious subplot, racial hatred in a 1950’s small Midwestern town as its white citizens try to prevent Native Americans from fishing, as guaranteed by treaty, in an ancestral lake.
Age nine, Eleanor Wilson, lives trapped in a marble mansion. Sneaking out, she visits the grave houses in an Indian cemetery, bringing with her the faceless doll she made from wood, a corn husk, and corn silk. Here, among these small buildings, low to the ground, with moon or star shaped openings in the front where relatives of the dead place food and medicine offerings, she plays tag with make-believe cousins then rests on the stone lap of an imaginary aunt who calls her pretty.
Eleanor doesn’t like looking in the mirror. At school a boy calls her fart-face because of her freckles, her mother bleaches her hair. That night, in her frilly pink bedroom, Eleanor hears the doll her mother took from her and burned.
“Cry for your mother.”
Afraid of the voice as a child, in 1958, hearing it again, she searches for its meaning, her journey of discovery taking her to the watery grave of a boy and the bones of a young girl. Lonely, insecure, controlled by the rigid rules of her bigoted parents, Eleanor falls in love with a Native American and then a beautiful Sikh woman, both relationships violating societal taboos.
Her mother cries, but not because of this.
After entering the world of Ghost Dance spirits, Eleanor discovers the secret about herself and how to save our dying world.
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