I’ve spent much of my adult life searching for a Native voice that echoes my own experience as an urban Indian. It was not until I read There There that I finally found a captivating voice who writes about Native life with both precision and power. The novel’s characters capture beautifully the history and truth of being Native in all its nuances, from Dene Oxendene, a documentary filmmaker who honors his uncle’s life by capturing the stories of Oakland Natives, to Jacquie Red Feather, a recently sober substance abuse counselor reckoning with her past and returning to her family. Tommy Orange’s stunning debut weaves a polyphonic narrative of Native experience, with each character grappling with the hope and heartbreak that comes from hundreds of years of trauma. These voices reach a crescendo at the Big Oakland Powwow in a finale that is both apt and horrifying — much like the untold history of Native Americans. Orange writes surely and resolutely of the Native experience, and he commands the reader’s acknowledgment of our history. Recommended By Kate L., Powells.com
When you hear truth as potent as Orange’s, speaking through generations of suffering and slaughter and consequent addiction and poverty, it surpasses anything as temporary as anger or righteousness or even respect, it takes you to the place of acknowledgement, a recognition of power and knowing. This book changes the story being told about Native Americans — it changes us all — reminding us that no matter how ravaged an identity, place, or a people becomes, it can never be completely annihilated. It will continue finding its way back to joy and recovery. Recommended By Aubrey W., Powells.com
Add me to the growing chorus of people who are raving about this book! In highlighting too often ignored Native voices, Tommy Orange takes the ugliness of rage, sorrow, heartache, and displacement, and channels them into something indescribably beautiful, something miraculous.There There is an oil slick rainbow of a book and a magnificent debut! Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The sensational, bestselling debut that has taken the literary world by storm: Tommy Orange’s first novel, which follows twelve characters traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen.
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. 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. 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.
“Stunning, symphonic….Orange — whose prose is electric, alive, who holds sorrow and joy at once in the palm of his sentences — puts his characters in front of reflective surfaces….They look at themselves, trying to figure out who they are, what they are, who and where they come from.” The Boston Globe
“Pithy and pointed. With a literary authority rare in a debut novel, it places Native American voices front and center before readers’ eyes.” NPR/Fresh Air
“[An] exceptional debut….Exquisite….Orange knows well the power of telling stories — but, more to the point, of telling good stories, ones that sublimely render the truth of experiences that are passed over…that challenge all other stories to be better.” San Francisco Chronicle
“A gripping deep dive into urban indigenous community in California: an astonishing literary debut!” Margaret Atwood, via Twitter
“Pure soaring beauty….Original and complex….Sweeping and subtle.” The New York Times Book Review
“Masterful….White-hot….[A] devastating debut.” The Washington Post
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.