Thank you to the lovely people at Knopf for my copy of There, There by Tommy Orange. All thoughts and images are my own.
Title: There There
Author: Tommy Orange
Genre: Fiction with multiple points of view
Pub date: June 5, 2018
Read if you like: a novel that feels like a collection of short stories.
This is one of the most artistic books I’ve read, and certainly one of the most impressive debuts. The format Orange chooses is unusual – at first, the various stories feel tied together in theme but disparate in relationship. It’s only after some time that the relationships between our various characters become clear. It’s like the most wonderful version of a mashup of a novel and a collection of short stories.
What I found to be so impressive was that despite this form of a narrative where Orange often interrupts himself to introduce a new story line, the tension continues to build. This story was incredibly compelling. Not only that, it was also educational. Orange addresses stereotypes often associated with the Native American community and illustrates the reality of that stereotype and whether its unique to the community, or just a part of being human.
This story is powerful and heartbreaking. I found myself overwhelmed by the beauty of the writing – waking up, remembering this was my current read, and feeling grateful that I would get to read more of it that day. It’s full of loss and hope and more loss. It is absolutely worth reading.
Trigger warnings for gun violence and rape.
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SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
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 has 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.