New Historical Fiction Exposes Oppressive Social Injustices Hidden behind a Romanticized White-Washed 50s Era, a Stark Reminder Not Much has Changed
Although Juneteenth is now a national holiday, many state legislatures are passing laws banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, a framework of analysis challenging the idea that the United States has become a color-blind society.
By: Reader Views
It is a story about an intriguing outsider; a protagonist grappling with her identity, who, though once a sorrowful girl, has the courage to search for the meaning of a nightmarish vision and become a young woman who no longer lets others define her. The book explores personal issues: loneliness, rejection, body image and societal ones: the toxicity of racism and, on a global level, environmental degradation. Books have been written about awkward teenagers, the Red Scare, and this country's policy of using Indian Boarding Schools to assimilate our Native American population. All three of these subjects are interwoven in Ghost Dancer, a novel set in the 1950s with themes relevant to the important issues we face today.
Kessler credits two specific events behind the inspiration for Ghost Dancer. "My sister told me a story about her hairdresser visiting a museum near closing time. When alone in a room displaying Native American artifacts, the woman turned on her recorder. Playing the recording at home, she heard only white noise, until this: 'We are not alone.'" The other incident occurred one afternoon close to Thanksgiving. Kessler noted, "I asked the young students in my karate class what happened to the Native Americans in this country. A little boy answered, 'They're all dead.'"
Early reviews praise Ghost Dancer as a bold, sobering, straightforward must-read for all ages:
Kessler's ambition is admirable. Racism..., the fear of Communism at the height of the Cold War, Nazism and anti-Semitism, religious hypocrisy...This eclectic tale delivers an intriguing outsider...The author has created a captivating protagonist grappling with her identity. Kirkus Reviews
"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." Reader Views
"What at first seems like a coming of age or ghost story morphs into a satisfying exploration of Native American and white relationships that assume a timeless tale of betrayal and loyalty... an outstanding interplay of emotions, history, and social inspection." Midwest Book Review
Ghost Dancer (ISBN 9781938394591, Leviathan Books, 2021) is available from online bookstores. For more information about Alan Kessler and his work visit his website https://alanskessler.com/
About the Author
Alan S. Kessler is the author of six novels on topics ranging from free will to child abuse to coming of age and the holocaust.
His last novel, The Butcher, was a semi-finalist in the 2018 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition and a 2019 Montaigne Medal Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Writing Contest. The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University added a copy to its library collection, finding the story helpful to the Center's students and faculty doing research.
Alan is married, has four children, two cats and a dog.