- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (June 5, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780525520375
- ISBN-13: 978-0525520375
- ASIN: 0525520376
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 291 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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There There: A novel Hardcover – June 5, 2018
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An Amazon Best Book of June 2018: What does it really mean to be an Indian/Native American/American Indian/Native? Orange's vivid debut novel allows a unique cast—ranging from teenagers to elders—to pull this question apart even as they add a modern layer of complexity: They live in the urban landscape of Oakland, California. The thrust of Orange's cross-cut storytelling is not to force his characters onto a strict plot line but to explore the varied ways of being an Indian and, more important, of feeling like an Indian. Fractured families, Oakland itself, and detachment from tradition make an Indian identity seem even more elusive to the younger characters, but it's a feeling that they unknowingly share—and that Orange wants to expose. As an amateur filmmaker says to a teen he's interviewing, "When you hear stories from people like you, you feel less alone." Isolation and longing permeate the page, lifted briefly only as the characters intersect at the Big Oakland Powwow, with chaotic results. If I have any quibble about the book (and it could be a failure of mine, really), it's that there are a few too many characters for me to comfortably hold in my head. But then again, this isn't a comfortable novel, and therein lies its power and purpose. —Adrian Liang, Amazon Book Review
“Bravura… There There has so much jangling energy and brings so much news from a distinct corner of American life that it’s a revelation… its appearance marks the passing of a generational baton.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Sweeping and subtle…pure soaring beauty.”
—Colm Toibin, The New York Times
“A rush of intensity and fervor… Bursting with talent and big ideas… Funny and profane and conscious of the violence that runs like a scar through American culture.”
—Jeff Baker, The Seattle Times
"A new kind of American epic... one that reflects his ambivalence and the complexity of [Orange's] upbringing."
—Alexandra Alter, The New York Times
"Masterful. White-hot. A devastating debut novel."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"A gripping deep dive into urban indigenous community in California: an astonishing literary debut!"
—Margaret Atwood, via Twitter
“Welcome to a brilliant and generous artist who has already enlarged the landscape of American Fiction. THERE THERE is a comic vision haunted by profound sadness. Tommy Orange is a new writer with an old heart.”
—Louise Erdrich, Birchbark Books
“THERE THERE drops on us like a thunderclap; the big, booming, explosive sound of 21st century literature finally announcing itself. Essential.”
—Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
“There There is a miraculous achievement, a book that wields ferocious honesty and originality in service of telling a story that needs to be told. 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
“There There is an urgent, invigorating, absolutely vital book by a novelist with more raw virtuosic talent than any young writer I've come across in a long, long time. Maybe ever. Tommy Orange is a stylist with substance, a showboater with a deeply moral compass. I want to call him heir to Gertrude Stein by way of George Saunders, but he is even more original than that. This book will make your heart swell.”
—Claire Vaye Watkins
"This is Tommy Orange. Remember his name. His book's gonna blow the roof off."
"A symphonic debut...Engrossing... There There introduces an exciting voice."
—Booklist (starred review)
"Commanding...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."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Visceral... A chronicle of domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction, and pain, the book reveals the perseverance and spirit of the characters... Unflinching candor... Highly recommended."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Kaleidoscopic... In this vivid and moving book, Orange articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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This book will make you sad - read it anyway.
This book will make you mad - read it anyway.
This book will remind you of the lies we were taught as children - read it to remember.
This book will remind you not to tell those lies anymore - read it to know the truth.
This book will make you smile – know hope.
This book will ruin Thanksgiving for you - read it so you can re-think your future Thanksgivings.
"There There", (the title referring to an out-of-context quote by Gertrude Stein about Oakland, CA) is fascinating, heartbreaking, frustrating and ultimately hopeful. The novel is comprised of individual, but interconnected/interrelated stories by a dozen characters; their stories and actions will culminate at the “Big Oakland Powwow”. (There are some major coincidences – but just suspend your disbelief and let it go!) The section on Dene Oxendene, somewhat mirrors the premise: Dene wants to make a documentary film of various Native Americans talking about their life experiences of living in Oakland, and that is pretty much the description of this novel – plus some mysteries and some shocking action.
Summing it up best, Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield’s Mother tells her that the world is made up of stories and that they honor their people by telling their stories. And that’s how Tommy Orange honors his people, and his readers, with these transforming and redemptive stories.
And what characters populate these pages. There are approximately 12 main ones, each embodying a fact of urban Native American identity. These complex relationships form a patchwork that make the outcome inevitable. There is search for family, identity and place, many feeling marginalized and invisible in the urban setting they find themselves. Earlier chapters provide character studies that present the players, their histories and motivations, so clearly the prose flows and pages fly by, followed by an almost cinematic speedup as the climax approaches.
Full disclosure - I began this book several days ago employing the audible edition, but found it was too rich and full to continue that way and had to begin all over again with a print version.
Reminiscent in ways of the movie Crash, these characters—who eventually come together in the Big Oakland Powwow—crash into each other intermittently, leaving behind sadness and often scars.
There’s Jacquie Red Feather, one of the characters we get to know the most, an alcoholic who is facing the tatters of her past and on her way to her future—finally meeting her three grandsons. Her daughter Blue, whom she never met (and who has given up those boys) is fleeing an abusive marriage. The oldest of the sons, Orvil, is pulling spider legs out of his own leg wound and wrestling about what it means to be Indian. And then there are the others —Danny who creates plastic guns on a 3D printer, Edwin who loses himself in overeating, Thomas who is half-white and floundering in his life.
Tommy Orange’s purpose is clear; he wants us to know that the term “Native” cannot be easily defined and, in fact, encompasses many kinds of people who share the burden of alienation, isolation and cruel history. They come to the annual Big Oakland Powow for different reasons: “The messy, dangling strands of our lives got pulled into a braid—tied to the back of everything we’ve been doing all along to get us here…we’ve been coming for years, generations, lifetimes, layered in prayer and hand-woven regalia, beaded and sewn together, feathered, braided, blessed, and cursed.”
This is a major contribution to Urban Indian literature; I’ve never read anything quite like it. But it also defines all of us, as Americans, in many important ways. Tommy Orange has power to spare.