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There There (2018)

by Tommy Orange

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,5071334,369 (4.01)197
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 197 mentions

English (130)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (133)
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
This novel follows a large and varied cast of Native American characters as they all converge on a big powwow held in Oakland, California, each of them bringing their own complicated motivations, feelings, and life experiences with them. But violence is heading there as well...

Tommy Orange's writing is amazing. The prologue alone, which describes the literal and figurative dismemberment of America's Native people and the ways in which they have adapted to survive, is as powerful a piece of writing as I have encountered in recent memory. He has an excellent feel for character, too. Even the people we see only in very brief glimpses feel thoroughly complex and real. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about here is quite how I feel about the ending... I wasn't really expecting all these life stories to be tied up neatly, but there's even less of that that I was anticipating. It's a little disconcerting, but then I think this is the kind of novel that ought to disconcert the reader a little, and the more I think about it, the more I believe that any neater resolution would have done the book a disservice.

In any case, it's sharp, thoughtful, painful, truthful-feeling writing, and I'm more than a little in awe of it. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jun 16, 2021 |
This book is a wonderful testament to the lives of Native Americans in todays world. It’s writing is eloquent and naturally shifts points of view in a way that seems almost impossible to pull off, but it does. The book was able to use all of the different points of view and still sound amazing. This is truly a work of art. ( )
  mrortiz | Jun 7, 2021 |
This book is so good it hurts. ( )
  rosscharles | May 19, 2021 |
It feels both believable and unbelievable that it took until 2018 for an urban Indian centered novel to claim the limelight in American publishing. While Orange is widely praised for giving voice to the underrepresented Native experience (with virtuosic range over class, age, gender, hardship), his novel also shines with just as much postmodern artistry as any of his more seasoned contemporaries. The pace was slow at first, but barrels forward as we see connections between each chapter’s focus character. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
I heard author Tommy Orange speak about this book; his desire to write about the people he calls ‘urban Indians’ – those who have lived their lives in cities. They don’t live on reservations; they are not connected to nature; many times they are not connected to their tribe and often times, unaware of their tribal traditions. Sometimes they are aware of Native organizations within the city they live ; often they are not.

(Note: Orange says that the people he knows refer to themselves as Natives rather than either of the more common Native Americans or American Indians.)

This is the story of a new PowWow being organized in Los Angeles. It will be the only one in the area and it is important that it be successful or there won’t be another one.

These are the stories of people attending the PowWow – organizers, members of the local Indian organizations, those who routinely attend PowWows, often dancing at the contests or selling their art or food. And there are those who have never been part of the Native scene and who hope to begin to understand their culture.

The organizers have been told they need to distribute the large prizes in cash; and where there is cash there are bad guys wanting to acquire it.

The characters are original and yet recognizable. They deal with the same issues that the Natives on reservations do, as well as those that any minority in a city deal with, which often includes grinding poverty and limited opportunities. Fetal alcohol syndrome, addictions, selling drugs to make ends meet, lack of opportunities, rape and families broken by prison all rear their ugly heads.

It’s not always an easy read. But I thought it was brilliant. The ending, although heartbreaking, felt real and somewhat hopeful to me. ( )
  streamsong | Apr 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (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 (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orange, Tommyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dean, SuzanneCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garcia, KylaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huisman, JettyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrott, BrynCover artistsecondary 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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