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There There (2018)

by Tommy Orange

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,0901563,540 (4.01)230
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… (more)
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» See also 230 mentions

English (153)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (156)
Showing 1-5 of 153 (next | show all)
A good book but very confusing to follow because of all the many characters' viewpoints. ( )
  awesomejen2 | Jun 21, 2022 |
Great heartbreaking story centered around Native Americans in modern day Oakland. ( )
  MichaelK12345 | Jun 11, 2022 |
This is one of those recent darlings of critics and book clubs, taking advantage of the shift in marketing for underserved authors and communities. Not every book that's received the new attention deserves it, but Orange's book is a good one. The shifting narrative perspective keeps the story rolling, adding a new wrinkle with every shift. The only down side to the book is that the culminating climax is somewhat anti-climactic. It was jolting to find these rich and varied characters shoved into a violent event to end the book. Certainly, the tales of Natives and poverty ridden communities are replete with violence. But Orange's grand mass shooting felt contrived, given that the violence in those communities is so oftener the day-to-day, and all the more tragic for its mundanity.

Recommended.
4 bones!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | May 30, 2022 |
For a debut novel, I found the writing to be excellent and the story very important. Profoundly developed, seemingly from first hand experience. I hope Tommy writes more, as moving as this. ( )
  swbesecker | Feb 28, 2022 |
"There is no there there," said Gertrude Stein of Oakland, California, and in the title of Tommy Orange's debut novel. This is an excellent depiction of Oakland in the twenty-first century, as well as the indigenous people that live there. The city has come to symbolize Native Americans' loss of homeland and identity throughout American history.

"We know the sound of the freeway better than rivers, the roar of distant trains better than wolf howls, we know the scent of gas and freshly wet pavement and burned rubber better than the smell of cedar or sage or even fry bread," according to the novel's prologue.

The story follows 12 Native American people who all live in Oakland, or have lived there in the past, and who all come together for a major powwow at the Oakland Coliseum. This polyphonic novel, on the other hand, is significantly more intricate and sophisticated than that short description suggests. Each character has a unique relationship with his or her Native culture.

Orange emphasizes the importance of cultural inheritance and how it contributes to the generational divide among Native Americans. Because of the ways their culture has damaged them in the past, the older characters have moved past caring about connecting with it. One of the novel's initial narrators, Opal Victoria Bear Shield, recalls a childhood spent on Alcatraz, where her mother and several other Native American families stayed during the 1969-1971 occupation. She is unable to fathom her mother's decision to relocate her and her sister to a location with diminishing food, sparse accommodations, and complete isolation as a youngster, only later realizing that it was motivated by her mother's desire to fight for her culture.

Thus certain aspects of the modern Native American experience - often the more dark ones - are told through the experiences of these twelve characters. It is a well-written exploration of the urban life of some members of the indigenous population with particular storylines that are more compelling than others. The book is helped by both its structure and the thoughtfulness of the author in planning the arc of the story. ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 153 (next | show all)
Characters here do not notice connections that might offer meaning even though they tell endless details. For those of us who may want literature to confirm human journeys, (or even reject them), this is boring stuff.
 
There There signals an exciting new era for Native American fiction. Orange lends a critical voice that at once denudes the reality of cultural genocide while evoking a glimmer of encouragement.
 
The network of characters in There There proves dizzying, but the multivocal nature of the book is a purposeful, intelligent strategy. It offers a glimpse of an interconnected life, a world in which small stones don’t just sink to the bottom of the sea but change tides.
 
This is a trim and powerful book, a careful exploration of identity and meaning in a world that makes it hard to define either.
 
The idea of unsettlement and ambiguity, of being caught between two worlds, of living a life that is disfigured by loss and the memory of loss, but also by confusion, distraction and unease, impels some of the characters, and allows the sound of the brain on fire to become dense with dissonance. Orange’s characters are, however, also nourished by the ordinary possibilities of the present, by common desires and feelings. This mixture gives their experience, when it is put under pressure, depth and a sort of richness.
 

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orange, Tommyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Comrie, TylerCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cuervo, AlmaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dean, SuzanneCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dennis, DarrellNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garcia, KylaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huisman, JettyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pappas, Cassandra J.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrott, BrynCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor-Corbett, ShaunNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.
--Bertolt Brecht

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?"
Quotations
Just like the Indian Head test pattern was broadcast to sleeping Americans as we set sail from our living rooms, over the ocean blue-green glowing airwaves, to the shores, the screens of the New World.
Plenty of us are urban now. If not because we live in cities, then because we live on the internet. Inside the high-rise of multiple browser windows. They used to call us sidewalk Indians. Called us citified, superficial, inauthentic, cultureless refugees, apples. An apple is red on the outside and white on the inside. But what we are is what our ancestors did. How they survived. We are the memories we don’t remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us.
They took everything and ground it down to dust as fine as gunpowder, they fired their guns into the air in victory and the strays flew out into the nothingness of histories written wrong and meant to be forgotten. Stray bullets and consequences are landing on our unsuspecting bodies even now.
...we know the smell of gas and freshly wet concrete and burned rubber better than we do the smell of cedar or sage or even fry bread—which isn’t traditional, like reservations aren’t traditional, but nothing is original, everything comes from something that came before, which was once nothing. Everything is new and doomed. We ride buses, trains, and cars across, over, and under concrete plains. Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere.
This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there.
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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

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