Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking—Tommy Orange’s first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen, and it introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career.
There There is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.
Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with stunning urgency and force. Tommy Orange writes of the plight of the urban Native American, the Native American in the city, in a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. An unforgettable debut, destined to become required reading in schools and universities across the country
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Explicit discussion of defecation
Booklist starred (May 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 17))
The at-first disconnected characters from whose perspectives Orange voices his symphonic debut are united by the upcoming Big Oakland Powwow. Some have been working on the event for months; some will sneak in with only good intentions, while others are plotting to steal the sizable cash prizes. Creative interludes from an omniscient narrator describe, for example, the names of First Nations people or what it means to be an Urban Indian: “We ride buses, trains, and cars across, over, and under concrete plains. Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere.” Opal recalls occupying Alcatraz as a child with her family; today she raises her sister’s grandchildren as her own after their unspeakable loss. With grant support, Dene endeavors to complete the oral-history project his deceased uncle couldn’t, recording the stories of Indians living in Oakland. In his thirties, with his white mother’s blessing, Edwin reaches out to the Native father he never met. While anticipation of the powwow provides a baseline of suspense, the path Orange lights through these and his novel’s many other stories thrills on its own. Engrossing at its most granular, in characters’ thoughts and fleeting moments, There There introduces an exciting voice.
Library Journal (April 1, 2018)
DEBUT Orange’s visceral first novel, set in past and present-day Oakland, weaves more than ten plot lines involving the lives of Native Americans. All intersect in a crescendo of violence at the Oakland Powwow. Tony Loneman starts off the narrative with an honest discussion of his fetal alcohol syndrome, which he calls “the Drome.” He also features in the conclusion piloting a drone. Video artist Dene Oxendene records stories while Orvil Red Feather is a dancer. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield and her sister -Jacquie Red Feather are most central to the novel. Jacquie and Opal were part of the historic occupation of Alcatraz-where Jacquie became pregnant-eventually giving up her daughter for a blind adoption. A chronicle of domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction, and pain, the book reveals the perseverance and spirit of the characters; from Jacquie as a substance abuse counselor ten days sober to the plight of Blue, the daughter she gave up, escaping from an abusive relationship. -VERDICT This book provides a broad sweep of lives of Native American people in Oakland and beyond. Echoes of Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets meets the unflinching candor of Sherman Alexie’s oeuvre; highly recommended.
About the Author
Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California.
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