There There by Tommy Orange
In an interview I read, the author Tommy Orange emphasized wanting to write a book that was not just about Native Americans, but for Native Americans. We often think of Native Americans in connection to the land whether ancestral or on reservations. At a time when more and more people are living in cities, there isn’t much in the canon to reflect this change. That leaves a lot of people out there who don’t see themselves reflected in the books and literature available. This is something Orange recognizes and hopes to change through his writing.
When I brought this book to share with my book club, only one person in the group had heard of it before. Having just picked it up myself, I felt a bit late to the show. I forget that because I work in publishing, I’m in a bit of book bubble. I remember seeing There There all over the trade magazines and one of my coworkers had already devoured it. So while I was a bit surprised that no one else in the group had heard of it, I was also pretty excited to be the one to introduce it to my fellow book clubbers.
There There is a hard-hitting novel exploring the lives of twelve urban Native Americans in the weeks leading up to the Big Oakland Powwow. The pieces come together as their stories intertwine and we learn what draws each character to the powwow and to each other. For some it’s a shot at the large cash prize, and for others it’s a chance to reconnect with forgotten pasts.
What I liked in particular about this book was the author's ability to set the story in motion, so the reader could work out what happens in the end on their own. In this way, the story doesn’t weigh itself down. It’s a mark of a deft writer and I can’t wait to see what he does next.