Cover image for Roofwalker
Power, Susan, 1961-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Minneapolis, Minn. : Milkweed Editions, [2002]

Physical Description:
199 pages ; 20 cm
Roofwalker -- Watermelon seeds -- Angry fish -- Wild turnips -- Beaded soles -- First fruits -- Indian princess -- Stone women -- Museum indians -- Reunion -- The attic -- Chicago waters.
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In Roofwalker, Native American writer Susan Power explores the complexities of contemporary Native American life. Featuring both fiction and nonfiction - ``stories'' and ``histories'' - the book shows the ways that native traditions and beliefs work for characters who live physically and spiritually far from the reservation. The first seven pieces are ``stories,'' such as the title tale in which a young girl believes in the power of the ``roofwalker'' spirit to make her dreams come true; or ``Beaded Souls,'' in which Maxine Bullhead, living in Chicago, is cursed by the sin of her great-grandfather, an Indian policeman sent to arrest Sitting Bull. The last five pieces are ``histories'' that repeat subjects and themes found in the earlier section, making Roofwalker a book in which spirits and the living commingle and Sioux culture and modern life collide with disarming power, humor, and joy.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This intriguing combination of fiction and nonfiction is a worthy follow-up to The Grass Dancer (1994). Part 1 is a collection of seven urban stories. The characters, mainly women, share a Sioux heritage and the difficulties that this heritage presents in a white world--a man leaves his wife and daughter in Chicago to search for a more "gung-ho Indian" lifestyle; a young couple relocates to Chicago to escape the prejudices of the reservation; a young Indian woman at Harvard struggles to incorporate tradition into her college routine. Part 2 is nonfiction, five interconnected autobiographical snapshots of the lives of the author's parents and of her childhood in Chicago, told with the same graceful lyricism and echoing many of the themes of the preceding fiction. 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. --Carrie Bissey

Publisher's Weekly Review

Power continues to explore her Native American heritage in this short story collection, a poignant, evocative follow-up to her PEN/Hemingway Award-winning first book, The Grass Dancer. Many of the stories have dual settings involving Sioux protagonists who have emigrated from North Dakota to Chicago, starting with the title story, which tells of a young girl's longings for her father after he abandons her mother and the girl's two siblings. Family ties are another connecting thread: "Watermelon Seeds" is a familiar story about a 16-year-old girl who tries to battle her mother's disapproval after her older boyfriend gets her pregnant; "Beaded Soles" is a taut, unusual tale in which a woman murders her husband after a difficult relocation to Chicago and a miscarriage. Power effectively uses vivid, colorful Native American imagery and myths in the longer stories, but several of the shorter entries are fragmented and shakier-"The Attic" is an ordinary account of some intriguing heirlooms that a woman finds among her family's artifacts, while "Chicago Waters" is a better, more complex series of musings about the perils and potential of swimming in Lake Michigan. The author displays a greater sense of narrative command here than in her debut, which allows her to take risks with her conceits and story lines. Occasionally she veers toward clichs of Native American fiction, but her confident voice marks her as a writer with potential. Author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Power's first book, The Grass Dancer, featured tales of life on the reservation and won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Roofwalker, this year's winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, focuses mainly on the lives of Native Americans and mixed bloods living away from the reservation, mostly in Power's native Chicago. Part fiction, part autobiography, these stories show what it's like to live between two worlds. In the title story, a nine-year-old girl struggles as her father, a "gung-ho Indian," leaves his job at the Indian Center in Chicago to return to his native South Dakota, taking with him not his family but a young girlfriend. "First Fruits" tells the story of a young woman's initial days at Harvard, beginning with the orientation tour, where her father surprises everyone with his knowledge of the first Native students, thereby giving his daughter a support group of ancestors. In "The Attic," when 11-year-old Susan and her Dakota mother clean out the attic at the home of Susan's paternal grandmother, who had just moved to a nursing home, they find documents from ancestors who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought in the American Revolution. This collection of moving, well-written tales is recommended for literary fiction collections. Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.