NATIONAL BESTSELLER • PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD WINNER • A wondrous and shattering novel that follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize.
Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.
Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We finished Tommy Orange’s astonishing debut in tears. There There unfolds as a series of vignettes, introducing us to a large cast of characters; most are Native Americans living in Oakland, a.k.a. Urban Indians. Orange’s writing is propelled by rage and sorrow and sustained by street-smart humor and gorgeous poetry. Suspenseful and unforgettable, this book is one you’ll want to share with all your friends.
Orange's commanding debut chronicles contemporary Native Americans in Oakland, as their lives collide in the days leading up to the city's inaugural Big Oakland Powwow. Bouncing between voices and points of view, Orange introduces 12 characters, their plotlines hinging on things like 3-D printed handguns and VR-controlled drones. Tony Loneman and Octavio Gomez see the powwow as an opportunity to pay off drug debts via a brazen robbery. Others, like Edwin Black and Orvil Red Feather, view the gathering as a way to connect with ancestry and, in Edwin's case, to meet his father for the first time. Blue, who was given up for adoption, travels to Oklahoma in an attempt to learn about her family, only to return to Oakland as the powwow's coordinator. Orvil's grandmother, Jacquie, who abandoned her family years earlier, reappears in the city with powwow emcee Harvey, whom she briefly dated when the duo lived on Alcatraz Island as adolescents. Time and again, the city is a magnet for these individuals. The propulsion of both the overall narrative and its players are breathtaking as Orange unpacks how decisions of the past mold the present, resulting in a haunting and gripping story.
Stepping outside yourself
Reading this book over the course of months, on camping trips and at home, I had an adventure inside my adventures. Introspective, poetic, irreverent read. as a non Native American, reading about the “native” experience felt more like the “human” experience. I appreciated the multi dimensional tone and my only complaint is that at the end got a little confused as to what character was doing what or what was happening to what. When I read the last page, I felt a wave of emotional response come over me and tears welled in my eyes. Sitting with that feeling was worth reading the whole book. Tragically beautiful.
There There changed the way I think about Native Americans and the US in general. Just finished it and I don't want to leave it.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE LINEAR STORY
Gotta give the author credits for his originality and ambition. He wrote a book about a virtually unexplored experience- contemporary urban Native American life- and did it from multiple (and I mean MULTIPLE) perspectives.
But he bit off more than he could chew. The novel could have been just as stirring with 1/3 fewer words. No protagonist in this story, which isn’t necessarily a problem. But with regard to characters, the author chose quantity over quality: way too many characters, and none of them fully developed.
This book took me months to “get through”, as opposed to “hours to devour”. Only in the final chapter was there anything close to an actual pacing.
The author has a commanding, lyrical writing style. Flawed, but impressive and ambitious first novel.