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There There: A novel by Tommy Orange
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There There: A novel (2018)

by Tommy Orange

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English (62)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Disappointing, considering the buzz. I loved the concept but found the character voices mostly interchangeable. ( )
  amydross | Mar 21, 2019 |
Contains spoilers.

This composite novel follows twelve Indian characters who all end up at an Oakland powwow. Each chapter dives us deep into a character, from one who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and whose face is disfigured from it, to a grandmother whose life we've followed from her being a teenager, her boyfriend, her sister, a group of young men who plot to rob the powwow, and bring 3D printed guns, ending it all up in a melee of death during the dancing. Most poignant are the stories of the young men who long to drum or dance their way out of the thing that keeps them dark during their daily life. All the characters live tawdry, difficult lives, and while we all yearn for redemption for each of them, this is a realistic story where only death is the escape out. Or survival from the shooting. Structurally interesting, somewhat hard to keep attached to as there are so many characters to keep track of, but overall a stunning story of contemporary and varied Indian life, with all its complexities of identity, belonging, longing to belong, and the oppressive track of history behind them.
  sungene | Mar 16, 2019 |
Loses its way a smidge in the final act which is a shame because everything before was impressive. Shifting POVs offers a wide range of voices telling a unified story of displacement, poverty, resignation, addiction and the will to keep going. The lives of these Urban Indians have weight. There is some fine and unfussy writing here. Good stuff. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
This book starts out great: a powerful new voice, talking about “Urban Indians”, weaving the terrible past of genocide, losing of home land and displacement into the narrative of the lost lives and culture of the descendents.

The preface and beginning was a solid five star. I was impressed. But then we get short stories of the worst traumas of many, loosely connected people, none of whom we get to know well. Families ruined by crime, father dying in a shooting, protecting his child, then the same child loses his brother and mother in an accident. Alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome, drug addiction, heroine babies. Rape, domestic abuse, and murder of women (the last one just thrown in there casually in conversation). Endemic suicide rates. Addiction to the internet, joblessness, teenage pregnancy and giving up babies for adoption. Poverty and general hopelessness, aimlessness, rootlessness.

You see the picture? It is too much. On top of that, the dramatic tone that was so impressive at the beginning, never lets up. It becomes repetitive, numbing, bleak. Even mundane things are described in tones of hopelessness and fear, such as Opal seeing a dog and imagining that it will tear her throat out.

I was suffering. I repeatedly thought of giving up. But I forced myself to continue, I figured it was an important book - such a rare voice, and the reviews were so great.

So when we got to the powwow, I was getting excited. I finally get to have a glimpse at what happens at a powwow! But I never got to know wat it really was like, because of that ending that ruined it all. The ending was not only a copout, but it was repeating its most dramatic moments, which made them cheap.

The ending ruined anything still valuable in the book. The noted goal of Tommy Orange, embodied in the story of Dene Oxendene, was to collect urban Indian stories, to tell them, so they can begin to heal. I kept telling myself that these stories are real and must be told, even if it is difficult to read them. But the ending - and in many cases, the non-ending - made all these people just actors in a fictional story, in service of an artificial ending. Like none of the stories even mattered.

Probably the most valuable part is the weaving of the Indian heritage into the story. Many characters struggle with their heritage, many know nothing of it, as their parents or guardians don’t want them to know. This is part of the story to tell. However, there is very little sense of actually getting in touch with this heritage, as even the powwow is glossed over.

At the end, I struggled too much with this book, and I found it too disjointed, too overdramatized, and having too many characters. We never get to know any characters well enough to appreciate their stories. The Native American aspect did not have too much impact - these people could have been poor, disadvantaged people in any city. As a story, it did not come together, and the ending was cheap. I found myself asking the question - if you had stripped the book of Native American references (and you easily could) - would this have received any accolades? The answer is a resounding no.

That said, Tommy Orange is talented, it is clear from this book. Some passages are beautifully written, and he definitely has a knack for drama. But he needs to pick a story, flesh it out, and learn to write good lulls between dramatic moments. You can’t heap all your drama at the reader all at once. ( )
  Gezemice | Mar 8, 2019 |
The hyperventilating publisher blurb does not do this very good book any justice, in my opinion. 'Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking" - okay I can go with that, but 'wondrous and shattering" is a heavy weight to hang on any book. I wasn't wondrously shattered, but I learned and felt more about Native experience after reading it, and I enjoyed the author's terrific story telling skills. He creates a large cast of characters who share a similar tone of voice, yet they were all very distinct and very real to me. It's the kind of book that will send you on lots of Google research missions and you'll be the better for it. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
How can I not know today your face tomorrow, the face that is there already or is being forged beneath the face you show me or beneath the mask you are wearing, and which you will only show me when I am least expecting it? -Javier Marias
Dedication
For Kateri and Felix
First words
The Drome first came to me in the mirror when I was six. Earlier that day my friend Mario, while hanging from the monkey bars in the sand park, said, Why's your face look like that?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Tommy Orange’s “groundbreaking, extraordinary” (The New York Times) There There is the “brilliant, propulsive” (People Magazine) story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. It’s “the year’s most galvanizing debut novel” (Entertainment Weekly).

As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. 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 will to perform 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 loss.

There There is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen. It’s “masterful . . . white-hot . . . devastating” (The Washington Post) at the same time as it is fierce, funny, suspenseful, thoroughly modern, and impossible to put down. Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with urgency and force. Tommy Orange has written 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. This is the book that everyone is talking about right now, and it’s destined to be a classic. Amazon
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"Not since Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine has such a powerful and urgent Native American voice exploded onto the landscape of contemporary fiction. Tommy Orange's There There introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career. "We all came to the powwow for different reasons. The messy, dangling threads of our lives got pulled into a braid--tied to the back of everything we'd been doing all along to get us here. There will be death and playing dead, there will be screams and unbearable silences, forever-silences, and a kind of time-travel, at the moment the gunshots start, when we look around and see ourselves as we are, in our regalia, and something in our blood will recoil then boil hot enough to burn through time and place and memory. We'll go back to where we came from, when we were people running from bullets at the end of that old world. The tragedy of it all will be unspeakable, that we've been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant, only to die in the grass wearing feathers." Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame in Oakland. Dene Oxedrene 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 Big Oakland 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. Fierce, angry, funny, groundbreaking--Tommy Orange's first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen. There There is a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power, dislocation and communion, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. A glorious, unforgettable debut"--… (more)

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