One of Tommy Orange's characters, Dene Oxendene, explains that Gertrude Stein once wrote about the place of her Oakland, California childhood, about going back there and seeing so much development that there was no there there anymore. Dene tells us that this is what happened to Native people across the Americas, ancestral land buried by "glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory." And yet Urban Indians have made cities their own. "Being Indian has never been about returning to the land." The novel has 12 characters who eventually come together at the Big Oakland Powwow, people so diverse and also deeply intertwined, sometimes in ways they don't even know; but Dene seems central. He's won a project grant to document long ignored stories from Oakland Indians on video, with no director's agenda, just letting the "content control the vision;" and that's exactly how I see this novel, as the characters' stories, told forcefully. They are often frightening and confusing, but with moments of revelation and clarity and power. They feel true, not crafted to turn out the way you or I would want. The people sometimes survive, sometimes don't, and for some we're not even sure at the end. This book is a brilliantly written, unflinching look at life as it is and the constant battle to find a sense of place.— Tim McCarthy
Boswell presents an evening with Tommy Orange, author of There, There. He'll be in conversation with UWM's Kimberly Blaeser on Tuesday, September 25, 7 pm. Registration required - free or upgrade to a first-edition book with ticket for just $22, including all taxes and fees. Visit orangemke.bpt.me to sign up.— Boswell Book Company
NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLER "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.
About the Author
TOMMY ORANGE is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California.