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There There by Tommy Orange

There There (2018)

by Tommy Orange

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,8491146,259 (4.03)162
"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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» See also 162 mentions

English (111)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (114)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
Great read ( )
  SBG1962 | Jun 3, 2020 |
I loved this book! Each voice managed to be funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at the same time. I can't wait to read more from this writer. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
This multiple award winning novel was both an important narrative and a wonderfully told tale. By using some twelve different narrators, the reader gets a multi view portrait of the urban Native Americans, mostly living in or from Oakland California. Tommy Orange, himself from the area, begins with a riveting prologue tallying the number of atrocities handed down in altered versions as history by the white writers.
"All the way from the top of Canada, the top of Alaska, down to the bottom of South America, Indians were removed, then reduced to a feathered image. Our heads are on flags, jerseys, and coins. Our heads were on the penny first, of course, the Indian cent, and then on the buffalo nickel, both before we could even vote as a people—which, like the truth of what happened in history all over the world, and like all that spilled blood from slaughter, are now out of circulation."
The prologue is then followed by chapters of disillusionment and grief as told through the eyes of Tony Loneman, Dene Oxendene, Edwin Black, Jackie Red Feather, my favorite Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, and several others. What at first could be separate short stories starts to come together as we realize all these portraits will be together in one picture at the Big Oakland Powwow, an event that honors the old ways, the dances, the drums and for some a potential big score. While Jackie's grandson Orvil is looking to dance for the cash prize, others are looking to use smuggled in 3D created guns to erase drug debt. The chapters get smaller as the novel progresses toward its climax and the style is effective. I was racing through the ending even as I was assembling the jigsaw pieces of the characters reuniting in strange but touching ways. This was quite a novel, one that will be on my highest recommendation list for others.
"Nothing in Orange’s world is simple, least of all his characters and his sense of the relationship between history and the present. Instead, a great deal is subtle and uncertain in this original and complex novel."
what Gertrude Stein said about Oakland?”“There is no there there,”
talking about how the place where she’d grown up in Oakland had changed so much, that so much development had happened there, that the there of her childhood, the there there, was gone, there was no there there anymore.

Being bipolar is like having an ax to grind with an ax you need to split the wood to keep you warm in a cold dark forest you only might eventually realize you’ll never make your way out of.

Our bumpers and rear windows are covered with Indian stickers like We’re Still Here and My Other Vehicle Is a War Pony and Sure You Can Trust the Government, Just Ask an Indian!; Custer Had It Coming; We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors, We Borrow It from Our Children; Fighting Terrorism Since 1492; and My Child Didn’t Make the Honor List, but She Sure Can Sing an Honor Song.

From the author:
I do hope the reader might take away from the book information about a people misunderstood for too long, and for [the reader] to try to better understand what it might be like to live contemporary lives. And how that might relate to an American history so long sold as the truth when really it was a lie told with the specific aim in mind to persuade the general American to believe American history is clean and maybe even holy or unassailable. ( )
  novelcommentary | May 23, 2020 |
What an amazing read! Each chapter introduces a Native American and their particular story.
All stories converge in the final chapters and this is one of the very very few book to bring tears to my eyes. Very well written bringing the characters to life to the point where you care about them and hope things turn out good for them.
Highly highly recommened! ( )
1 vote Carmenere | May 20, 2020 |
An ensemble novel, starting with separate characters who turn out to be connected - some by blood, others by the fact of their eventual attendance at the Big Oakland Powwow.


We've been defined by everyone else and continue to be slandered despite easy-to-look-up-on-the-internet facts about the realities of our histories and current state as a people. (prologue, 7)

Urban Indians were the generation born in the city. We've been moving for a long time, but the land moves with you like memory. An Urban Indian belongs to the city, and cities belong to the earth. (prologue, 11)

"Some medicine is poison." (Dene Oxendene, 37)

"There is no there there." (Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Autobiography, 38)

"You gotta know about the history of your people. How you got to be here, that's all based on what people done to get you here....They tried to kill us. But then when you hear them tell it, they make history seem like one big heroic adventure across an empty forest. There were bears and Indians all over the place. Sister, they slit all our throats." (Opal Viola Victoria Shield, 51)

Does what we try most to avoid come after us because we paid too much attention to it with our worry? (Edwin Black, 68)

While I was talking something in me reached back to remember all that I'd once hoped I'd be, and placed it next to the feeling of being who I am now. (Edwin Black, 75)

It's no wonder it was getting worse. You can't sell life is okay when it's not. (Jacquie Red Feather, 98)

"And we're either involved and have a hand in each one of their deaths...or we're absent, which is still involvement, just like silence is not just silence but is not speaking up." (re: teen suicide, Jacquie Red Feather, 104)

There's an ache when you keep yourself from breathing. A relief when you come up for air. (Jacquie Red Feather, 116)

We made powwows because we needed a place to be together. Something intertribal, something old, something to make us money, something we could work toward....We keep powwowing because there aren't very many places where we get to all be together, where we get to see and hear each other. (interlude, 135)

The wound that was made when white people came and tool all that they took has never healed. An unattended wound gets infected. Becomes a new kind of wound like the history of what actually happened became a new kind of history. All these stories we haven't been telling all this time, that we haven't been listening to, are just part of what we need to heal. Not that we're broken. And don't make the mistake of calling us resilient. To not have been destroyed, to not have given up, to have survived, is no badge of honor. Would you call an attempted murder victim resilient? (interlude, 137)

This is the thing: If you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that's how you know you're on board the ship that serves hors d'oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning... (interlude, 137-138)

"People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them." -James Baldwin (epigraph to Part III)

The thing we most don't want has a way of landing right on top of us. (Octavio Gomez, 185)

"We all fuck up. It's how we come back from it that matters....
That's the way this whole thing is set up. You're not ever supposed to know. Not all the way. That's what makes the whole thing work the way it does. We can't know. That's what makes us keep going." (Fina to Octavio, 186) ( )
  JennyArch | May 13, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (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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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

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?"
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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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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