Alan S. Kessler
Leviathan Books (2021)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (05/21)
There are two very clear and poignant issues this book deals with from the very beginning: racial injustice and bullying. Having to deal with the hatred that runs rampant in our world is difficult enough but doing it while also living a life where people put you down on a daily basis makes the heart break. When it comes to “Ghost Dancer,” however, author Alan S. Kessler not only shows the negative but is kind enough to show the power of inner strength; a way to stand up in a rotten world and find a way to love life.
Beginning in 1877, a glimpse is given at Rabbits Hollow. At one time this was Indian land, but after having most of the acreage stolen by a treaty that was rewritten by white settlers, the bulk of it became the prosperous town of Providence. Only a small piece of the original territory remains—a location that is ripe for hearing the voices of spirit guides from long ago.
Fast forward to 1950. Eleanor is a nine-year-old girl playing in the nearby Native American cemetery with a faceless doll she has created. Unfortunately, her alcoholic mother finds the doll horrid and decides to burn it. Eleanor hears words come from the damaged toy: “Cry for your mother.” This experience will be the first step on a journey that will grip Eleanor later in life. Growing up she finds herself taking the brunt of both racial and sexist bullying, as she also learns about the history of the U.S. and the horrible treatment that white settlers brought down on the heads of both Native Americans and African Americans. Eleanor uses her newfound knowledge, anger, and pain and goes on her own coming-of-age quest that has her talking to her very own spirit guides. And once she finds out that she has a power that can actually save others, Eleanor works to fight discrimination and hatred in order to be a hero.
As a reader, at the same time I was being absolutely angered by the meanness in this book, I was also being uplifted by the ‘fight for rights’ that came from the strong protagonist this author offers. This is a true battle and it crosses into reality quite easily, seeing as that no matter what news station you watch at night in 2021, racial injustice is still a headline. Some will call this an eclectic tale; however, being that it includes things like two-hundred-year-old forests, visions, ancestral voices, and being led and aided by the unknown, it actually has that awe-inspiring feel that can only come from the incredibly popular fantasy genre.
“Ghost Dancer” is not only relevant to our time, but it is a captivating book that will make you immediately want to run outside your door and fight for what’s right in this world. Perhaps if more books were written like this, with such incredible heart, the negative values and beliefs of others could be erased for good.