There There

There There

Book - 2018
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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. There There introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career. 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 honour 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 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 Big Oakland Powwow with darker intentions. 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."--
Publisher: [Toronto] : McClelland and Stewart, ©2018.
ISBN: 9780771073014
Characteristics: 294 pages ;,22 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking, There There is a relentlessly paced multi-generational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. A glorious, unforgettable debut.


From the critics


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scribby
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.

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ssemegran
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.

p
peacebenow
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.

j
JANMAYS
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.

r
redtayres
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.

c
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.

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bethwpr
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.

d
dnolet
Mar 27, 2019

Mixed feelings about this book. First book by this author. Highly acclaimed. Little too violent for me.

n
nalahblueberry5
Mar 11, 2019

Excellent. Want to read all his work

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Quotes

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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

http://academyofamericanpoets.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/y/7DFC527A044527AE/DEB4998FF8A48D3023B7CB3C95A53812

l
LauraSteinert
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.

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LauraSteinert
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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