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A Council of Dolls

A novel by


The long-awaited, profoundly moving, and unforgettable new novel from PEN Award–winning Native American author Mona Susan Power, spanning three generations of Yanktonai Dakota women from the 19th century to the present day.

From the mid-century metropolis of Chicago to the windswept ancestral lands of the Dakota people, to the bleak and brutal Indian boarding schools, A Council of Dolls is the story of three women, told in part through the stories of the dolls they carried….

Sissy, born 1961: Sissy’s relationship with her beautiful and volatile mother is difficult, even dangerous, but her life is also filled with beautiful things, including a new Christmas present, a doll called Ethel. Ethel whispers advice and kindness in Sissy’s ear, and in one especially terrifying moment, maybe even saves Sissy’s life.

Lillian, born 1925: Born in her ancestral lands in a time of terrible change, Lillian clings to her sister, Blanche, and her doll, Mae. When the sisters are forced to attend an “Indian school” far from their home, Blanche refuses to be cowed by the school’s abusive nuns. But when tragedy strikes the sisters, the doll Mae finds her way to defend the girls.  

Cora, born 1888: Though she was born into the brutal legacy of the “Indian Wars,” Cora isn’t afraid of the white men who remove her to a school across the country to be “civilized.” When teachers burn her beloved buckskin and beaded doll Winona, Cora discovers that the spirit of Winona may not be entirely lost…

A modern masterpiece, A Council of Dolls is gorgeous, quietly devastating, and ultimately hopeful, shining a light on the echoing damage wrought by Indian boarding schools, and the historical massacres of Indigenous people. With stunning prose, Mona Susan Power weaves a spell of love and healing that comes alive on the page.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"This is a wild river of a book. Susan Power writes with a headlong energy and a force that are nothing less than thrilling. The Grass Dancer is painfully authentic, and Anna Thunder one of the most compelling female characters in contemporary fiction." - Louise Erdrich

"Mona Susan Power's new novel is an honor song to the love and strength of Native families and our stories, to our brilliant selves. I couldn't have known how much I needed the wisdom and offerings of these pages." - Kelli Jo Ford

"A talent like Susan Power comes along once in a lifetime, and lucky for us she's arrived. Here is a debut so stunning, so extraordinary in its depth and passion, you will swear there's a miracle on every page." - Alice Hoffman

"A Council of Dolls absorbs through the skin, enters the bone, and disperses through the psyche - it perfectly captures the internal roots of the Native experience. Through the lives of three Dakota women, we grapple with the emotional, psychological, and spiritual toll on Indigenous peoples enduring an often brutal system and, moreover, how strength, healing, and love reverberate down each passing generation to dispense hope and resiliency. I cannot more highly recommend Power's newest masterpiece." - Oscar Hokeah

"A Council of Dolls reached out, grabbed me and did not let go. Power's ability to make language sing, cry, scream, and laugh illuminates this heartstopper of a book that shines a light into the dark corners of America's history. I wanted the generational journey I was taking with these unforgettable characters - and their dolls - to never end. Read it--and be healed." - Marie Myung-Ok Lee

"This tender and magical novel will stay with me for a long time. Mona Susan Power writes with dazzling empathy. The result is a heart-rending and many-layered narrative, a captivating story which is also a thrilling testimonial to the power of stories." - Margot Livesey

"A work of exquisite beauty and courageous truth-telling, and an unforgettable homage to ancestral suffering and strength." - Sheila O'Connor

"The Grass Dancer is astonishing, and not simply because it's Susan Power's first book. It is pure and potent magic, with storytelling that encircles you like wisps of tribal ghosts." - Amy Tan

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