There There

There There

A Novel

Book - 2018
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"This is a novel about what it means to inhabit a land both yours and stolen from you, to simultaneously contend with the weight of belonging and unbelonging. There is an organic power to this book--a revelatory, controlled chaos. Tommy Orange writes the way a storm makes landfall." --Omar El Akkad, author of American War

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.
Publisher: Toronto, ON :, McClelland & Stewart,, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780525520375
Branch Call Number: FIC Oran
Characteristics: 294 pages


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Jul 11, 2019

This fast-paced debut novel tells the story of how 12 Urban Indians found themselves at the Oakland pow-wow. Each chapter tells their heartbreaking stories of what its like to be a native-American today. There were beautiful moments of pause in the book giving backstory to the Indian experience; the "Interlude" especially. I became especially invested in Jacquie whose blood seemed to connect all the characters in the story. The speed at which the last 50 pages move was incredibly gripping and while the big event ended in absolute horror, I did find some sense of peace and resolve with ending. You won't forget a novel like this one.

TacomaLibrary Jun 23, 2019

Tacoma Reads 2019. Read the book. Join the Conversation.

Jun 17, 2019

A brutal, and brutally honest portrayal, told in a mix of first-person, second-person, and third-person narration. It was interesting to discover how the various characters relate to each other and how they converge at the climax. The book is basically realistic, but with an occasional surreal (and horrifying) metaphor (i.e., those spider legs) -- these form counterpoint with the horrific (and intolerable) situations and thrust of the story.

May 13, 2019

There There, the debut novel by Tommy Orange, follows a large cast of Native Americans who live in Oakland, California. Orange does a masterful job of setting up his narrative with a prologue about the history of Native Americans and the power of who tells those stories, whether by white people or others. Then he unfurls the narrative with each of his characters stories like a patchwork quilt weaved with sadness and regret and remorse. All his characters are troubled and, unfortunately for them and the reader as well, there will be no light at the end of their tunnel. The narrative is a dirge, figuratively and literally. It's a heavy story but one that needed to be told and listened to. I think it's important to hear the stories of all Americans, most importantly the marginalized.

Having a happy ending is not a requirement for me but to invest in these characters then have their lives end in the way it does in this novel is like a sucker punch. It's a cheap shot. But these characters' lives are worth reading about. Hope is a powerful subtext; I just wished for a little more of it.

Orange does a curious thing by mixing first, second, and third person narration. His first-person narration is particularly effective, as his characters' personalities jump off the page. The second-person choice even makes sense in the chapter where it's used. But the third-person choice is a head-scratcher. Why offer some of these marginalized characters the power of narrating their own stories then deny some others by using a mysterious narrator? Why not let them tell their own stories? The only thing the third-person narration did was confuse me. Why aren't they telling their own story? Why does Tony speak for himself but Bill doesn't? It's an odd choice and one I'm surprised his editor didn't question. Maybe Orange was showing off like a juggler adding burning bowling pins to his set of rubber balls.

Overall, a good read with some exceptional writing, although the end left a little to be desired. I would give this novel a 3.5 stars.

May 09, 2019

Interesting to follow the progress of most Native Americans people/families through difficult life situations where they eventually converge at the books climax. The author is very creative and holds ones interest to the end despite the the number of characters portrayed.

May 08, 2019

DNF - about indians - boring

PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 30, 2019

In There There, Orange writes of an Indigenous band, "the problem with Indigenous art in general is that it’s stuck in the past. The catch, or the double bind, about the whole thing is this: If it isn’t pulling from tradition, how is it Indigenous? And if it is stuck in tradition, in the past, how can it be relevant to other Indigenous people living now, how can it be modern? So to get close to but keep enough distance from tradition, in order to be recognizably Native and modern-sounding, is a small kind of miracle..." and the same could be said for this novel.

Orange writes a panoply of characters. And actually, if I had one critique it would be that you need to read the book, without interruption from other books, or a couple of the young boys and their relationships get a little muddy. It could be that I had to return the book because of the hold list and check it out again. Regardless, the majority of the characterizations are strong, making nearly every voice unique.

The story centers around an upcoming pow wow to be held at the Oakland Coliseum. And thus the name. I didn't know before reading this that Gertrude Stein was from Oakland and her famous quote that "there is no there there" was about returning to Oakland as an adult. I'm finding it difficult to write this review because it's the type of thing I want to quote big chunks of. The writing is insightful and while it is about the Native community, it is a novel that many will relate to: the ways we respond to trauma, the feeling of disconnect, and a story that culminates in the great fear of the modern age.

Apr 30, 2019

A powerhouse debut novel from a writer to watch, even if the story grew hard to follow owing to too many story-lines. In the end, the fact that I couldn't remember each of the characters and their stories didn't detract from understanding the conclusion of the book. This author writes in an authentic way, of the plight of Native Americans who've been raised in the suburbs. Most importantly, Think he got that point across and I'd welcome the opportunity to read his follow up novel. He's a nice bright light on the literary scene.

CarleeMcDot Apr 18, 2019

A friend of mine had shared this book on her Instagram a couple months back so I got on the wait list at the library. I knew nothing about it when it became available, but sort of read the title as a comforting "there, there" type phrase. I quickly found out that this was not what the title was referencing (it was actually from a quote about how a place was no longer the place they once remembered "there is no there there"). I found this book incredibly interesting, albeit slightly hard to follow at times. The story is an intertwining of 12 different characters and their journey to one specific event (a powwow in Oakland). Often times I found it hard to keep the different characters and their stories straight (some would only have a page or two about them, while others would have twenty to thirty before switching to another person). The hubby has a heart for the Native American people, so reading more about their plight was eye opening (even in a novel format). Even with the constant changing of points of view and narrative styles, I was hooked. The author does a great job at reinforcing his idea that the term "Native" cannot be easily defined. Although there may be similar themes in the Native experience, every tribe, family and person experiences things differently and we need to honor each and every one of those stories. I do have to say, I was a little bummed at the end of the story because I felt like there was so much left unfinished, but I do see why sometimes an author leaves a story open-ended and allows the reader creativity to decide how everything turns out. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

Apr 02, 2019

All the award nominations and glowing comments about this book are completely spot-on. I know nothing of the modern Native American experience, and this book spells it out pretty well, through the background and introduction and via the characters' experiences. The writing is spectacular; I look forward to more of Tommy Orange's work.

The only reason I gave this book three stars is that the story arc just didn't do it for me. I don't expect a happy ending or likable, perfect characters -- in fact, I loved that most of the characters weren't in this book. I just think a more compelling story would have cemented this for me.

I selected this for book club and several members said it was too dark for them. I've read far darker and didn't this was that bad, but that said, do read what it's about and be aware of the historical plight of Native Americans; this book would be disingenuous if it were anything but.

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jpainter Jan 31, 2019

"She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories."

Listen to this companion poem from Billy-Ray Belcourt , NDN Homopoetics

Dec 27, 2018

Some of us came to the cities to escape the reservation. We stayed after fighting in the Second World War. After Vietnam, too. We stayed because the city sounds like a war, and you can't leave a war once you've been you can only keep it at bay--which is easier when you can see and hear it near you, that fast metal, that constant firing around you, cars up and down the streets and freeways like bullets.

Dec 27, 2018

This [forced migration into cities] was part of the Indian Relocation Act,, which was part of the Indian Termination Policy, which was and is exactly what it sounds like. Make them look and act like us. Become us. And so disappear.


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SPL_Shauna Sep 04, 2018

In the years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its work, Indigenous news has taken a more prominent place in our news cycles. However, not everyone learns best by reading the news, and if you'd rather learn about cultures and the effects of colonialism by reading fiction, this book is a great place to start. It's also stunning literature in its own right, and Indigenous critics have lauded all the many things this book gets right about Indigenous lives.

There There features an ensemble cast of characters whose lives become intertwined around a large Pow Wow coming up in the Oakland area. Despite the number of characters involved in the narrative, each character feels fully fleshed out. The reader quickly becomes drawn into the narrative of the family who moves to Alcatraz to join the Indigenous occupation, a young man growing up with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome who is tugged into gang activity, a woman who flees an abusive relationship and becomes the Pow Wow's organizer, a young boy who yearns to dance at the Pow Wow despite his family's rejection of the craft, and many others. The narratives spiral together toward a crisis at the Pow Wow, with the reader unable to put the book down until everyone's accounted for.

Gorgeously written, empathic and gritty, There There is likely to make many of this year's best-of lists. Don't miss it.

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