There There

There There

A Novel

Book - 2018
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Twelve Native Americans came to the Big Oakland Powwow for different reasons. 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 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 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.
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2018
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780525520375
0525520376
9780525436140
Characteristics: 294 pages ; 22 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

October selection

A novel that grapples with the complex history and identity of Native Americans follows twelve characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.


From the critics


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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?

KatieD_KCMO Mar 06, 2020

Tommy Orange takes the different versions of each characters "urban Indian experience" and weaves it into one beautiful and intensely emotional tapestry, culminating in their gathering at the Big Oakland Pow-wow. Tommy Orange writes each character as if they are a part of himself. He writes for everyone--and every indigenous person or person with indigenous heritage who has ever felt "not Indian enough." It's a beautiful debut novel, I look forward to more from him in the future.

Tommy Orange takes the different versions of each characters "urban Indian experience" and weaves it into one beautiful and intensely emotional tapestry, culminating in their gathering at the Big Oakland Pow-wow. Tommy Orange writes each character as if they are a part of himself. He writes for everyone--and every indigenous person or person with indigenous heritage who has ever felt "not Indian enough." It's a beautiful debut novel, I look forward to more from him in the future.

CCPL_Carly Feb 03, 2020

Tommy Orange has constructed a polished and impactful novel, with voices long unheard in fiction about Native people. His writing is both poetic and fierce - exceptionally stunning at points. The characters here, underrepresented in fiction, are painted so expertly that their fates will linger long after the book's relentless finale. A new and important entry to collected Native fiction.

j
JerryJennings
Jan 26, 2020

This book has many characters and many time frames. It is complex, intriguing and sometimes confusing. Orange explores diverse stories of native Americans who converge in the same place at the same time. It is a troubling and thought provoking tale.

s
sueharris13
Jan 12, 2020

Loved this book and that it was set in local Oakland, CA, I had to read it. Characters are relatable, and hearing their perspectives on growing up native and how hard it is to hold onto their traditions makes me realize my own. We all have a history. Loved the native dancing aspect and watching quite a few videos on YouTube to see what it was about. Powerful.

**I read this after reading Killers of the Flower Moon ~ which is also one of my top reads on Native Americans.

b
bookpusher
Dec 01, 2019

November WPL Book Club selection: I don't understand the hoopla about this book. Too many characters therefore we didn't really get to know any of them therefore I didn't grow to care for any of them. Also, I'd really like to know how many people were at this powwow because wow....

j
Jhetto
Nov 08, 2019

Compelling style, vivid, memorable characters, and intertwined storylines that build layer upon layer, to an explosive conclusion. Tommy Orange deserves all the praise he’s received for a great first novel.

ArapahoeTina Oct 26, 2019

This book added Native voices to my life that I hadn't even known were missing. Great narrative storytelling with lots of heart and bits of humor. For a debut novel, this author handled his complex storyline very deftly and is deserving of the praise he's received.

e
eddie141_0
Oct 23, 2019

Amazing story teller. If you love stories then give this a read. You won't regret it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Pick it up now!

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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

l
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.

l
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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