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
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.
"Commanding…The propulsion of both the overall narrative and its players are breathtaking as Orange unpacks how decisions of the past mold the present, resulting in a haunting and gripping story." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Visceral… A chronicle of domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction, and pain, the book reveals the perseverance and spirit of the characters… Unflinching candor… Highly recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Kaleidoscopic… In this vivid and moving book, Orange articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"A symphonic debut…Engrossing… There There introduces an exciting voice." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Welcome to a brilliant and generous artist who has already enlarged the landscape of American Fiction. There There is a comic vision haunted by profound sadness. Tommy Orange is a new writer with an old heart." Louise Erdrich
"There There drops on us like a thunderclap; the big, booming, explosive sound of 21st century literature finally announcing itself. Essential." Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
"A gripping deep dive into urban indigenous community in California: an astonishing literary debut!" Margaret Atwood, via Twitter
"There There is an urgent, invigorating, absolutely vital book by a novelist with more raw virtuosic talent than any young writer I’ve come across in a long, long time. Maybe ever. Tommy Orange is a stylist with substance, a showboater with a deeply moral compass. I want to call him heir to Gertrude Stein by way of George Saunders, but he is even more original than that. This book will make your heart swell." Claire Vaye Watkins
"This is Tommy Orange. Remember his name. His book’s gonna blow the roof off." Pam Houston
"There There is a miraculous achievement, a book that wields ferocious honesty and originality in service of telling a story that needs to be told. This is a novel about what it means to inhabit a land both yours and stolen from you, to simultaneously contend with the weight of belonging and unbelonging. There is an organic power to this book – a revelatory, controlled chaos. Tommy Orange writes the way a storm makes landfall." Omar El Akkad, author of American War
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.
Tommy Orange on PowellsBooks.Blog
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...