There There

There There

Book - 2018
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"We all came to the powwow for different reasons. The messy, dangling threads of our lives got pulled into a braid--tied to the back of everything we'd been doing all along to get us here. There will be death and playing dead, there will be screams and unbearable silences, forever-silences, and a kind of time-travel, at the moment the gunshots start, when we look around and see ourselves as we are, in our regalia, and something in our blood will recoil then boil hot enough to burn through time and place and memory. We'll go back to where we came from, when we were people running from bullets at the end of that old world. The tragedy of it all will be unspeakable, that we've been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant, only to die in the grass wearing feathers." Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame in Oakland. Dene Oxedrene is pulling his life together after his uncle's death and has come to work the powwow and to honor his uncle's memory. Edwin Frank has come to find his true father. Bobby Big Medicine has come to drum the Grand Entry. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather; Orvil has taught himself Indian dance through YouTube videos, and he has come to the Big Oakland Powwow to dance in public for the very first time. Tony Loneman is a young Native American boy whose future seems destined to be as bleak as his past, and he has come to the Powwow with darker intentions--intentions that will destroy the lives of everyone in his path. Fierce, angry, funny, groundbreaking--Tommy Orange's first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen. There There is a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power, dislocation and communion, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. A glorious, unforgettable debut"--
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780525520375
0525520376
Branch Call Number: FIC ORANGE 2018
Characteristics: 294 pages ; 22 cm

Opinion


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From Library Staff

Tommy Orange's debut novel brings together twelve characters on their way to the Big Oakland Powwow.

Orange’s debut novel offers a kaleidoscopic look at Native American life in Oakland, California, through the experiences and perspectives of 12 characters (Kirkus.) Tommy Orange was a SAL speaker in February, 2018.

Tommy Orange's debut novel brings together twelve characters on their way to the Big Oakland Powwow.

Orange's debut novel offers a kaleidoscopic look at Native American life in Oakland, California, through the experiences and perspectives of 12 characters. (Kirkus)

Orange's debut novel offers a kaleidoscopic look at Native American life in Oakland, California, through the experiences and perspectives of 12 characters. (Kirkus)


From the critics


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LPL_IanS Dec 17, 2020

12 urban Indians are headed to the Big Oakland Powwow each with their own motivations. We learn about them in eponymous segments wedged between essays on American history. Poignant, harrowing, difficult, funny, tragic, eye opening, all the good adjectives. A unique and extremely confident book (let alone a debut)!

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Irzabeta
Nov 28, 2020

What an incredible, intense reading experience!

This book follows a group of interrelated Native American characters who all converge at a pow wow in Oakland, CA. Each character's story highlights the challenges of being Native American in the United States. There are issues of poverty, addiction, abuse, dislocation, etc. It's storytelling that is both vast and intimate.

Aside from the insights by the author, himself Native American, I appreciated that this book was nontraditional. The stories are about the oft-neglected urban Indians, the ones who are making their lives off the reservation in cities. These are also stories about ordinary people with challenges that are fundamentally human and relatable by non-Indians.

I've read some critiques that there were too many characters. I can see that. Each chapter is from a different character's point of view and only a few have repeat chapters. It could be jarring to get invested in one character's story to then suddenly switch to another's. Nevertheless, I thought that the way their stories converged in the end was pretty impressive, in part because of that authorial choice. By then, the reader has spent time looking through the eyes of every single character affected at the pow wow.

Overall, I really think this book earns its place in the canon of Native American literature. Definitely worth trying out.

p
pokano
Oct 18, 2020

In There, There, the author weaves a collection of stories about fictional Native Americans who live primarily in Oakland into a novel. Each character illustrates various issues that urban Native Americans might face--substance abuse, broken families, joblessness, etc. At first, I thought the book was very much like a Sherman Alexie book, but as I read farther into the book, I realized that was not so. Although some of the themes are similar, Tommy Orange has his own voice. As a group, women also play a larger role than they do in many Alexie books. The last portion of the book, as it comes to its climax, is incredibly intense.

b
BookLover4fun
Oct 08, 2020

Occasional brilliance, but overall disappointing in terms of character development and story. I grew tired very quickly of the ghetto language and poor grammar. It is not beautifully written, but it tells the story of urban Native Americans in my local hometown of Oakland, a population we don’t hear from very often. I’m glad I read it but I won’t be in a big hurry to read his next one.

p
p0mmstax
Oct 04, 2020

I've never read anything like this. Fresh, real characters, and Orange builds quiet tension throughout to the climax of the story. How did he do it? It's a knockout.

m
mmyjer20
Sep 21, 2020

I listened to this in the car. It was very well written by the author. The characters are very believable. The story is very educational about the plight of the modern Native people. Also it is very sad and tragic.

l
LibrarianLaurie
Sep 09, 2020

A collection of beautifully written interweaving chapters that read like short stories. It's about Native Americans living in Oakland, slightly reminiscent of Louise Erdrich. The stories and characters come together for an explosive ending.

a
alfredfrenzel
Sep 06, 2020

librirans at omaha recommended

n
nngrey
Aug 17, 2020

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/books/review/tommy-orange-there-there.html

m
Mersenne5
Mar 09, 2020

Despite my Métis and Cree ancestry, I grew up with an English name and white face. I didn't experience prejudice, except from those who knew about Native blood. That's another story. Therefore, I began this book with high hopes, wanting Tommy Orange to express a facet of my experience almost as much as that of his Native characters in Oakland, California. What a disappointment. Orange begins his novel with a rant against white people that I found as unpleasant and unbalanced as the self-congratulatory lies told by many white-people historical accounts until recently. Hatred's hatred, and I cringe.

Having set the stage, Orange launches into a series of characters that often didn't work as such. Their stories read as much as social work reports as fiction. The positive: Orange draws some of these characters very well, and often his prose is gorgeous. Yet just as I was getting into someone's story, off Orange went into another character. There are twelve in total, like the disciples. And they all converge at a powwow in Oakland, like the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales. Orange is self-consciously literary, and while this trait works to elevate and dignify the lives of his characters, it does not necessarily produce effective fiction, regardless of the writer's heritage.

And the novel's development is interrupted by another rant. Maybe for some all-white readers this works, allowing them to experience ethnic hatred themselves. (I hate the term race, because for me there's only one race, the human one.) For me, it's weird and shameful, another reminder that our faults unite us as humans, despite our skin colours and heritages. In any case, rants don't make high art fiction, IMO, and Tommy Orange has the capabilities to produce that. Maybe the next novel?

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Quotes

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jpainter Jan 31, 2019

"She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories."

Listen to this companion poem from Billy-Ray Belcourt , NDN Homopoetics

http://academyofamericanpoets.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/y/7DFC527A044527AE/DEB4998FF8A48D3023B7CB3C95A53812

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LauraSteinert
Dec 27, 2018

Some of us came to the cities to escape the reservation. We stayed after fighting in the Second World War. After Vietnam, too. We stayed because the city sounds like a war, and you can't leave a war once you've been you can only keep it at bay--which is easier when you can see and hear it near you, that fast metal, that constant firing around you, cars up and down the streets and freeways like bullets.

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LauraSteinert
Dec 27, 2018

This [forced migration into cities] was part of the Indian Relocation Act,, which was part of the Indian Termination Policy, which was and is exactly what it sounds like. Make them look and act like us. Become us. And so disappear.

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SPL_Shauna Sep 04, 2018

In the years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its work, Indigenous news has taken a more prominent place in our news cycles. However, not everyone learns best by reading the news, and if you'd rather learn about cultures and the effects of colonialism by reading fiction, this book is a great place to start. It's also stunning literature in its own right, and Indigenous critics have lauded all the many things this book gets right about Indigenous lives.

There There features an ensemble cast of characters whose lives become intertwined around a large Pow Wow coming up in the Oakland area. Despite the number of characters involved in the narrative, each character feels fully fleshed out. The reader quickly becomes drawn into the narrative of the family who moves to Alcatraz to join the Indigenous occupation, a young man growing up with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome who is tugged into gang activity, a woman who flees an abusive relationship and becomes the Pow Wow's organizer, a young boy who yearns to dance at the Pow Wow despite his family's rejection of the craft, and many others. The narratives spiral together toward a crisis at the Pow Wow, with the reader unable to put the book down until everyone's accounted for.

Gorgeously written, empathic and gritty, There There is likely to make many of this year's best-of lists. Don't miss it.

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