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“Powerful. . . .  a revelation.” —The New York Times 
 

“With a literary authority rare in a debut novel, it places Native American voices front and center before readers’ eyes.” —NPR/Fresh Air
 
One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering bestselling novel 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.
 
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, TimeO, The Oprah MagazineThe Dallas Morning News, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe

Review

“An astonishing literary debut.” —Margaret Atwood

“Masterful. . . . White-hot. . . Devastating.” — The Washington Post
 
“Pure soaring beauty.” — The New York Times Book Review
 
“Stunning.” — The Boston Globe
 
“Brilliantly, furiously, magnificently, tragically, the story of America.” — Elle
 
“Heartbreaking.” — Esquire
 
“Electrifying.” — Entertainment Weekly
 
“Brilliant, propulsive.” — People

“Powerful. . . . There There has so much jangling energy and brings so much news from a distinct corner of American life that it’s a revelation.” — The New York Times

“Exquisite. . . . [An] exceptional debut. . . . Sublimely render[s] the truth of experiences that are passed over.” — San Francisco Chronicle
 
“With a literary authority rare in a debut novel, it places Native American voices front and center before readers’ eyes.” —NPR/ Fresh Air

“Mr. Orange’s sparkling debut is not merely a literary triumph but a cultural and political one, too. It is a work of defiance and recovery.” — The Economist

“Powerful. . . . As contemporary, tragic, and American as a breaking news alert.” — The Christian Science Monitor

“Stunning.” — Mother Jones

“How do you rewrite the story of a people? This question shapes Tommy Orange’s sorrowful, beautiful debut novel. . . . Even in its tragic details, it is lyrical and playful, shaking and shimmering with energy.” — The Guardian

“Gripping. . . . Unforgettable. . . . There There paints a vivid portrait of American lives few readers have ever known.” — Bustle

“Reader, I must confirm:  There There really is an extremely good book. . . . This is a trim and powerful book, a careful exploration of identity and meaning in a world that makes it hard to define either. Go ahead and go there there.” —Constance Grady, Vox

“This is the kind of novel you finish and immediately need your book club to read so you can talk about it with other people. . . . It’s also a powerful reminder of the ability of narrative to move minds.” — GOOP

“Staggering. . . . Expertly rendered. . . . Orange successfully refutes the idea of a monolithic Native American identity.” — Buzzfeed

“As funny as it is heartbreaking, tracking the multigenerational story of twelve Native Americans with themes of violence, identity, and despair.” — PopSugar

“Orange’s novel is one of healing, pulling together the intimacies of family, community, history, and violence.” — The Rumpus

“An ambitious and galvanizing novel. . . . It’s somehow a page-turner at the same time, propelled by the incandescent energy of Orange’s prose.” — Thrillist

“Bursting with talent and big ideas… Funny and profane and conscious of the violence that runs like a scar through American culture.” The Seattle Times

“[A] smashing debut. . . . Urgent. . . . The voices are dynamic, varied and very much of the moment, a chorus of American Indian voices coming straight from the city.” — The Dallas Morning News

“Compulsively readable. . . . A dazzlingly intricate narrative that marries the personal and the ancestral. . . . A masterful work.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Searing. . . . There There finds satisfying richness in the minutiae of its characters'' lives—their daily victories and losses, enduring frustrations, acts of tenderness, and senses of wonder.” — The Austin Chronicle

“[Orange] writes with such finely honed literary craft that the book fairly begs to be read more than once. . . . It is gritty as well as beautiful, poetic; it is shocking, sometimes very amusing, often emotionally gut-punching, and rife with unsentimental insight.” — Santa Fe New Mexican

“Orange’s book is truly a page turner filled with multi-generational accounts of violence, recovery, memory, identity, beauty, and even a little despair. It’s a book where you as the reader can’t put down until you finish it with both a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of anticipation of what could happen next.” — Lakota Country Times

“This is not just a novel. It’s a carefully, beautifully crafted speech into a megaphone, telling stories of real, contemporary Native life in a specific place. . . . It offers a glimpse of an interconnected life, a world in which small stones don’t just sink to the bottom of the sea but changes tides.” — The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Bold and engrossing. . . . There is hope in this book, hope in the strength of stories told and stories that are finally heard. . . . The wonder of this accomplished debut is the way in which he has got under his characters’ skins, allowing them to speak for themselves. . . . This is a powerful novel of pain and possibility.” — Financial Times

“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

There There drops on us like a thunderclap; the big, booming, explosive sound of twenty-first 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.” —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.” —Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus

About the Author

Tommy Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue
 
“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
―Bertolt Brecht
 
 
Indian Head
 
There was an Indian head, the head of an Indian, the drawing of the head of a headdressed, long haired, Indian depicted, drawn by an unknown artist in 1939, broadcast until the late 1970s to American TVs everywhere after all the shows ran out. It’s called the Indian Head Test Pattern. If you left the TV on, you’d hear a tone at 440 hertz—the tone used to tune instruments—and you’d see that Indian, surrounded by circles that looked like sights through rifle scopes. There was what looked like a bullseye in the middle of the screen, with numbers like coordinates. The Indian head was just above the bullseye, like all you’d need to do was nod up in agreement to set the sights on the target. This was just a test.
 
In 1621, colonists invited Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, to a feast after a recent land deal. Massasoit came with ninety of his men. That meal is why we still eat a meal together in November. Celebrate it as a nation. But that one wasn’t a thanksgiving meal. It was a land deal meal. Two years later there was another, similar meal, meant to symbolize eternal friendship. Two hundred Indians dropped dead that night from supposed unknown poison.
           
By the time Massasoit’s son Metacomet became chief, there were no Indian-Pilgrim meals being eaten together. Metacomet, also known as King Phillip, was forced to sign a peace treaty to give up all Indian guns. Three of his men were hanged. His brother Wamsutta was let’s say very likely poisoned after being summoned and seized by the Plymouth court. All of which lead to the first official Indian war. The first war with Indians. King Phillip’s War. Three years later the war was over and Metacomet was on the run. He was caught by Benjamin Church, Captain of the very first American Ranger force and an Indian by the name of John Alderman. Metacomet was beheaded and dismembered. Quartered. They tied his four body sections to nearby trees for the birds to pluck. John Alderman was given Metacomet’s hand, which he kept in a jar of rum and for years took it around with him—charged people to see it. Metacomet’s head was sold to the Plymouth Colony for thirty shillings—the going rate for an Indian head at the time. The head was spiked and carried through the streets of Plymouth before it was put on display at Plymouth Colony Fort for the next twenty five years.
 
In 1637, anywhere from four to seven hundred Pequot were gathered for their annual green corn dance. Colonists surrounded the Pequot village, set it on fire, and shot any Pequot who tried to escape. The next day the Massachusetts Bay Colony had a feast in celebration, and the governor declared it a day of thanksgiving. Thanksgivings like these happened everywhere, whenever there were, what we have to call: successful massacres. At one such celebration in Manhattan, people were said to have celebrated by kicking the heads of Pequot people through the streets like soccer balls.
 
The first novel ever written by a Native person, and the first novel written in California, was written in 1854, by a Cherokee guy named John Rollin Ridge. His novel, The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, was based on a supposed real-life Mexican bandit from California by the same name, who, in 1853, was killed by a group of Texas rangers. To prove they’d killed Murrieta and collect the five thousand dollar reward put on his head—they cut it off. Kept it in a jar of whiskey. They also took the hand of his fellow bandit Three Fingered Jack. The rangers took Joaquin’s head and the hand on a tour throughout California, charged a dollar for the show.
 
The Indian head in the jar, the Indian head on a pike were like flags flown, to be seen, cast broadly. Just like the Indian head test pattern was broadcast to sleeping Americans as we set sail from our living rooms, over the ocean blue green glowing airwaves, to the shores, the screens of the new world.
 
Rolling Head

There’s an old Cheyenne story about a rolling head. We heard it said there was a family who moved away from their camp, moved near a lake—husband, wife, daughter, son. In the morning when the husband finished dancing, he would brush his wife’s hair and paint her face red, then go off to hunt. When he came back her face would be clean. After this happened a few times he decided to follow her and hide, see what she did while he was gone. He found her in the lake, with a water monster, some kind of snake thing, wrapped around her in an embrace. The man cut the monster up and killed his wife. He brought the meat home to his son and daughter. They noticed it tasted different. The son who was still nursing said, my mother tastes just like this. His older sister told him it’s just deer meat. While they ate a head rolled in. They ran and the head followed them. The sister remembered where they played, how thick the thorns were there, and she brought the thorns to life behind them with her words. But the head broke through, kept coming. Then she remembered where rocks used to be piled in a difficult way. The rocks appeared when she spoke of them, but didn’t stop the head, so she drew a hard line in the ground which made a deep chasm the head couldn’t cross. But after a long heavy rain, the chasm filled with water. The head crossed the water, and when it reached the other side, it turned around and drank all that water up. The rolling head became confused and drunk. It wanted more. More of anything. More of everything. And it just kept rolling.
 
One thing we should keep in mind, moving forward, is that no one ever rolled heads down temple stairs. Mel Gibson made that up. But we do have, those of us who saw the movie, in our minds the rolling heads down temple stairs in a world meant to resemble the real Indian world in the 1500s in ancient Mexico. Mexicans before they were Mexicans. Before Spain came.

We’ve been defined by everyone else and continue to be slandered despite easy-to-look-up-on-the-internet facts about the realities of our histories and current state as a people. We have the sad, defeated Indian silhouette, and the rolling heads down temple stairs, we have it in our heads, Kevin Costner saving us, John Wayne’s six-shooter slaying us, an Italian guy named Iron Eyes Cody playing our parts in movies. We have the litter-mourning, tear-ridden Indian in the commercial (also Iron Eyes Cody), and the sink-tossing, Jack Nicholson saving, crazy Indian who was the narrator in the novel, the voice of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. We have all the logos and mascots. The copy of a copy of the image of an Indian in a textbook. All the way from the top of Canada, the top of Alaska, down to the bottom of South America, Indians were removed then reduced to a feathered image. Our heads are on flags, jerseys, and coins. Our heads were on the penny first, of course, the Indian head cent, and then on the buffalo nickel, both before we could even vote as a people—which, like the truth of what happened in history all over the world, and like all that spilled blood from slaughter, is now out of circulation.
 
Massacre as Prologue

Some of us grew up with stories about massacres. Stories about what happened to our people not so long ago. How we came out of it. At Sand Creek, we heard it said that they mowed us down with their howitzers. Volunteer militia under Colonel John Chivington came to kill us, we were mostly women, children, and elders. The men were away to hunt. They’d told us to fly the American flag. We flew that and a white flag too. Surrender, the white flag waved. We stood under both flags as they came at us. They did more than kill us. They tore us up. Mutilated us. Broke our fingers to take our rings, cut off our ears to take our silver, scalped us for our hair. We hid in the hollows of tree trunks, buried ourselves in sand by the riverbank. That same sand ran red with blood. They tore unborn babies out of bellies, took what we intended to be, our children before they were children, babies before they were babies, they ripped them out of our bellies. They broke soft baby heads against trees. Then they took our body parts as trophies and displayed them on stage in a downtown Denver. Colonel Chivington danced with dismembered parts of us in his hands, with women’s pubic hair, drunk, he danced, and the crowd gathered there before him were all the worse for cheering and laughing along with him. It was a celebration.
 
Hard, Fast

Getting us to cities was supposed to be the final, necessary step in our assimilation, absorption, erasure, completion of a five hundred year old genocidal campaign. But the city made us new, and we made it ours. We didn’t get lost amidst the sprawl of tall buildings, the stream of anonymous masses, the ceaseless din of traffic. We found each other, started up Indian Centers, brought out our families and powwows, our dances, our songs, our beadwork. We bought and rented homes, slept on the streets, under freeways, we went to school, joined the armed forces, populated Indian bars in the Fruitvale in Oakland, and in the Mission in San Francisco. We lived in boxcar villages in Richmond. We made art and we made babies and we made way for our people to go back and forth between reservation and city. We did not move to cities to die. The sidewalks and streets, the concrete absorbed our heaviness. The glass, metal, rubber and wires, the speed, the hurtling masses—the city took us in. We were not Urban Indians then. This 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. But it wasn’t just like that. Plenty of us came by choice, to start over, to make money, or just for a new experience. Some of us came to 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. The quiet of the reservation, the side-of-the-highway towns, rural communities, that kind of silence just makes the sound of your brain on fire that much more pronounced.
 
Plenty of us are urban now. If not because we live in cities than because we live on the internet. Inside the high rise of multiple browser windows. They used to call us sidewalk Indians. Called us citified, superficial, inauthentic, cultureless refugees, apples. An apple is red on the outside and white on the inside. But what we are is what our ancestors did. How they survived. We are the memories we don’t remember, that live in us, that we feel, that make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us.
 
When they first came for us with their bullets, we didn’t stop moving even though the bullets moved twice as fast as the sound of our screams, and even when their heat and speed broke our skin, shattered our bones, skulls, pierced our hearts, we kept on, even when we saw the bullets send our bodies flailing through the air like flags, like the many flags and buildings that went up in place of everything we knew this land to be before. The bullets were premonitions, ghosts from dreams of a hard fast future. The bullets moved on after moving through us, became the promise of what was to come, the speed and the killing, the hard fast lines of borders and buildings. They took everything and ground it down to dust as fine as gunpowder, they fired their guns into the air in victory and the strays flew out into the nothingness of histories written wrong and meant to be forgotten. Stray bullets and consequences are landing on our unsuspecting bodies even now.
 
Urbanity

Urban Indians were that generation born in the city. We’ve been moving for a long time, but the land moves with you like memory. An Urban Indian belongs to the city, and cities belong to the earth. Everything here is formed in relation to every other living and nonliving thing from the earth. All our relations. The process that brings anything to its current form, chemical, synthetic, technological or otherwise doesn’t make the product not a product of the living earth. Buildings, freeways, cars—are these not of the earth? Were they shipped in from Mars, the moon? Is it because they’re processed, manufactured, or that we handle them? Are we so different? Were we at one time not something else entirely, homosapiens, single celled organisms, space dust, unidentifiable pre-bang quantum theory? Cities form in the same way as galaxies. Urban Indians feel at home walking in the shadow of a downtown building. We came to know the downtown Oakland skyline better than we did any sacred mountain range, the redwoods in the Oakland hills better than any other deep wild forest. We know the sound of the freeway better than we do rivers, the howl of distant trains better than wolf howls, we know the smell of gas and freshly wet concrete, the smell of burnt rubber, better than we do the smell of cedar or sage or even frybread—which isn’t traditional, like reservations aren’t traditional, but nothing is original, everything comes from something before, which was once nothing. Everything is new and doomed. We ride buses, trains, and cars across, over, and under concrete plains. Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere.

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4.4 out of 54.4 out of 5
6,229 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Mary Lins
5.0 out of 5 starsVine Customer Review of Free Product
You''ll Never Celebrate Thanksgiving Quite the Same After Reading this Wonderful Novel
Reviewed in the United States on April 30, 2018
I just finished "There There", by Tommy Orange and I’m so glad to have read it - though sometimes it was difficult: 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... See more
I just finished "There There", by Tommy Orange and I’m so glad to have read it - though sometimes it was difficult:

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.
558 people found this helpful
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Steelhead
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Confusing
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2018
This Canterbury Tales-style novel, in which a series of characters (all Native people) are introduced, and ultimately brought together at a modern Powwow, was strangely unsatisfying. Attempts to keep the characters straight made me feel as if I were suffering from... See more
This Canterbury Tales-style novel, in which a series of characters (all Native people) are introduced, and ultimately brought together at a modern Powwow, was strangely unsatisfying. Attempts to keep the characters straight made me feel as if I were suffering from attention deficit disorder; just as I gained any sense of a newly-introduced player (and any investment in his survival) the narrative switched to someone new. (Loother, we hardly knew ye.) Everyone ends up at the Powwow. There is a lot of random gunfire. Many of our new-found friends end up shot, some fatally, but we don''t get to know who survives. ???
However, if one steps outside the plot and listens to the voices of these wounded people, all trying to find some place to stand and build their lives, time spent with this book is not wasted.
265 people found this helpful
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KasaC
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
There
Reviewed in the United States on June 8, 2018
When I first saw the title of this book, I read it as soothing words of comfort, but I had it totally wrong. Taking the famous Gertrude Stein quote "There is no there there," Tommy Orange explains that this seeming indictment of Oakland, California as a... See more
When I first saw the title of this book, I read it as soothing words of comfort, but I had it totally wrong. Taking the famous Gertrude Stein quote "There is no there there," Tommy Orange explains that this seeming indictment of Oakland, California as a featureless hole in the landscape is not what Stein meant. Further reading of the quote proves she found her hometown unrecognizable as the place of her memory. The entirety of the United States could be classified as such, given the effects of progress perpetuated on native Americans by colonizers. Late in the book, the broken promises, actual crimes and genocide are related metaphorically through a story written by one of the characters.

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.
300 people found this helpful
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Jordan
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Don''t Believe the Hype
Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2018
When was the last time a Native author not named Alexie or Erdrich was on the NYT Bestseller list? Tommy Orange? A debut novel? I cannot figure out what is provoking all the hoopla surrounding this mediocre first try from Mr. Orange. He is a writer of some talent, most of... See more
When was the last time a Native author not named Alexie or Erdrich was on the NYT Bestseller list? Tommy Orange? A debut novel? I cannot figure out what is provoking all the hoopla surrounding this mediocre first try from Mr. Orange. He is a writer of some talent, most of it unrealized here - he has potential. There are just too many characters to be given anything but a superficial treatment in the 300 pages or so allotted to them. Personality development is very shallow, and they''re all messed up of course. There is such a thing as an Indian who is emotionally healthy, economically stable, and secure in his or her identity. Too boring for a novel?

This shallowness is also found in the notion that this book is a great account of the "urban Indian." Nope, it isn''t. Although it''s true that most Native Americans live in cities and not Reservations, so many still have strong connections to the Rez: relatives are still there, growing up happened there, Reservation landscapes are essential to spirituality and identity. None of this is present in "There There." It''s as though these people sprang into existence ex nihilo. They have little or no backstory. For an excellent "urban Indian" novel from a much, much better writer, read "The Hiawatha" by David Treuer.

Finally, the ending of "There There" is simply bizarre, even ridiculous (spoiler alert). Some of the characters try to rob a Powwow, and for no apparent reason one of them starts shooting another, who returns fire, and in the shootout nearly all of the characters are hit. Mr. Orange prefers coyness to closure and does not indicate who lives and who dies. What''s the point?
142 people found this helpful
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Jill I. Shtulman
5.0 out of 5 starsVine Customer Review of Free Product
A searing look at the multi-facted Urban Indian culture
Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2018
What does it mean to be a Native American—often invisible in the U.S. tapestry? Documentary filmmaker Dene Oxendene, one of a dozen characters whom we meet in this book, gives his take (based on Gertrude Stein''s famous quote about Oakland, "There is no there... See more
What does it mean to be a Native American—often invisible in the U.S. tapestry? Documentary filmmaker Dene Oxendene, one of a dozen characters whom we meet in this book, gives his take (based on Gertrude Stein''s famous quote about Oakland, "There is no there there.") He says:: “This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there.”

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.
212 people found this helpful
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groundie
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
high hopes but did not deliver
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2018
i really hoped and wanted this book to succeed, but alas it was disappointing. i understand the genocidal history of indigenous peoples in the new world. the book''s characters are descendants of natives who have been isolated and displaced into reservations but now live... See more
i really hoped and wanted this book to succeed, but alas it was disappointing. i understand the genocidal history of indigenous peoples in the new world. the book''s characters are descendants of natives who have been isolated and displaced into reservations but now live in urban cities. they are creatures of modern life, they search the internet not the forest. they send emails and texts, not smoke signals. yet, they embody and struggle with the past. how to be who you really are?

author begins with a prologue citing historical atrocities and prepares the reader with a cast of characters who are urban, certainly not privileged and profoundly troubled with their identities. chapters are titled with characters'' names and the language is decidedly street-level. of course, each has a story to tell and their stories intertwine and ultimately converge in a climactic powwow. unfortunately, there is little depth to either the characters or their story line. what you read is what you get; there is liberal use of curt dialogues. there is no mystery, no insight. and the mayhem at the end seems artificial, made up for its cheap dramatic effect.
58 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
and during a great number of events in between
Reviewed in the United States on June 14, 2018
I got kind of burned out so haven''t been reviewing books as often as I used to. But every so often there''s one I couldn''t resist if I wanted to, and I don''t want to resist There There.. And There There is one I think few can resist. The title comes of course from Gertrude... See more
I got kind of burned out so haven''t been reviewing books as often as I used to. But every so often there''s one I couldn''t resist if I wanted to, and I don''t want to resist There There.. And There There is one I think few can resist. The title comes of course from Gertrude Stein''s famous quote about Oakland, CA where Stein grew up and where I live and where the novel is set. The full quote (I knew this not) is more akin to Thomas Wolfe''s "You can''t go home again" than to "Oakland is worthless." She grew up on a farm which, when she wrote, had become a houses. How the title relates to Orange''s tale about current day Indians, their history and identities, requires an experience that can only be had by reading the novel. Or perhaps by living some aspect of it.
It''s often hard to stay emotionally connected to the characters in a piece as densely populated as There There, but Orange keeps us intimately involved with each and every one. No mean feat. Especially when the rather slim volume encompasses such a huge swath of modern Oakland/Bay Area History.
We are there on Alcatraz Island during the 1970 occupation, and we are there during a contemporary Oakland Coliseum Pow Wow, and during a great number of events in between. Geography, too. Oakland to Oklahoma and back. During our travels through time and space, we encounter a number of predictable themes--oppression, brutality, alcoholism, cultural identity. However, Orange makes the themes fresh by periodically reminding us how invisible Indians have become in the urban setting. How irrelevant the old horse-back warrior on the plains-or-reservation image has become. So irrelevant, in fact, that Natives are often mistaken for Mexicans. They can''t even be prejudiced against for their own minority group.
I live in a fairly privileged part of Oakland, so don''t experience the daily grit and grime of my city, but I''ve been there. In my classroom teaching, in the West Oakland Church we attended for many years, a church where the Black Panthers'' breakfast program originated and thrived for a time. I don''t pretend to be part of that survival level experience that many Oaklanders encounter. But I''ve touched it and its people and I''ve met it face-to-face. Orange brings it home in a way possible only for someone who has been there as I never have. It was a special experience for me to turn pages and find myself in so many locations I see and experience on a regular basis. However, even for those who never have been or or never will, There There is a There well worth the journey, and Tommy Orange is an author well worth meeting.
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Polyolly
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Tommy is not just a Native American talent, he is a literary one
Reviewed in the United States on June 21, 2018
I recently realize something: I have never met a Native American in my life. I live in America... and I have never, at 31, met one of her Native keepers. I found this realization to be sad, unnerving, and frankly depressing. Fast forward a few weeks after this realization,... See more
I recently realize something: I have never met a Native American in my life. I live in America... and I have never, at 31, met one of her Native keepers. I found this realization to be sad, unnerving, and frankly depressing. Fast forward a few weeks after this realization, I saw a spotlight on Tommy in NYT, about a week before his work came out. He seemed cool, I saw passion in him. I ordered it immediately after reading the article (and note, I am a 40 book a year reader, and I *never* read new books. I''m old school).

Short of meeting a NA, this book was what I needed. A look at multiple perspectives of native culture from a youth alive today. Finding NA identity, being stuck, burdened, proud of it. Tommy breaks our journey up into a vignettes from a select coterie of characters yet in the end it feels like a single story. Not an easy move to pull. He dance with time, he makes words dance. As a lapse writer, I saw him do small subtle nuance that told me he really knows what he is doing, and is in control of every single shift in words. He knows Oakland like a catholic knows the Our Father, and he puts it into his characters well. He is an immense talent. He makes us suffer, makes us hurt, makes us try for that most desperate question: how did these peoples get flung so low? And who are they capable of being when they rise?

I expect many great things from Tommy. I would love a single story novel from him just to see how deep he can get into a character. My only complaint (and it may just be a me problem, not the book''s) is that I a bit lost track of which character was which and kind of just wish I had some kind of reference to go back to to make sure I knew who I was with.
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read-along-with-sue
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good story but disjointed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 24, 2021
Jacquie Red Feather and her sister Opal grew up together, relying on each other during their unsettled childhood. As adults they were driven apart, but Jacquie is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. That’s why she is there. Dene is there...See more
Jacquie Red Feather and her sister Opal grew up together, relying on each other during their unsettled childhood. As adults they were driven apart, but Jacquie is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. That’s why she is there. Dene is there because he has been collecting stories to honour his uncle''s death. Edwin is looking for his true father. Opal came to watch her boy Orvil dance. All of them are connected by bonds they may not yet understand. All of them are there for the celebration of culture that is the Big Oakland Powwow. But Tony Loneman is also there. And Tony has come to the Powwow with darker intentions.
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Ronnie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book, highly recommended
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2021
This was a great novel; it was engaging, the story flowed and was well written. There is a lot going on with multiple characters and multiple themes. This book was a pleasure to read. The lives and stories of multiple characters are told through the various chapters....See more
This was a great novel; it was engaging, the story flowed and was well written. There is a lot going on with multiple characters and multiple themes. This book was a pleasure to read. The lives and stories of multiple characters are told through the various chapters. Despite the short “time” each character had to tell their story, I felt there was enough to get you interested in them and care about where life took them. The characters were largely interlinked, all culminating at a Powwow that two of the characters, Tony and Octavio, intend to rob to pay a drug debt. There are flashes of humour along with some very dark themes, domestic abuse, rape, drug and alcohol dependency. There are also interludes where the author lays out the brutal historical background and the impact these events still have today. I liked the characters Opal, Orvile (and his younger brothers), and Edwin in particular. Edwin was a bit of a whinger, but I could also sympathise with him and the rut he was stuck in. The ending came swiftly and senselessly, just as the characters really started to get going and their stories began to merge; I don’t know if this was metaphorical but I thought the way the novel came crashing to an abrupt end fitted well within the story.
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Gardening squirrel
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A tale of the Urban Indian
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 13, 2018
A tale of the urban Indian told with wit and inside knowledge. The characters are the fictional descendants of a factual race destroyed by genocide, their own history mostly unknown to them who are making their way to a traditional pow wow where money can be made and events...See more
A tale of the urban Indian told with wit and inside knowledge. The characters are the fictional descendants of a factual race destroyed by genocide, their own history mostly unknown to them who are making their way to a traditional pow wow where money can be made and events both comic and tragic await. A great modern novel.
4 people found this helpful
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Nudi
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A must-read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 30, 2020
A really interesting format and concept for a book. I enjoyed how the pieces fell into place and the story ramped up as we approached the day of the Powwow. The different characters really felt like different characters, Tommy Orange has worked hard to make them each so...See more
A really interesting format and concept for a book. I enjoyed how the pieces fell into place and the story ramped up as we approached the day of the Powwow. The different characters really felt like different characters, Tommy Orange has worked hard to make them each so distinct and engaging. Looking forward to reading more from him. Support Native writers.
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Rainer
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very impressive
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 4, 2019
This is a very impressive first novel. Tommy Orange has about a dozen narrators for his story which culminates at a pow wow in Oakland. It is not an easy read but there are great passages like the two non fictional essays in the beginning and in the middle and some of the...See more
This is a very impressive first novel. Tommy Orange has about a dozen narrators for his story which culminates at a pow wow in Oakland. It is not an easy read but there are great passages like the two non fictional essays in the beginning and in the middle and some of the narratives of American first nations people. We see Indians often as people connected to nature, but the people in Orange''s book are city people and they struggle with their ancestry and they struggle with their present and their often damaged family relationships with stories of alcohol, drugs and abuse. Soon, Mr Orange will come to my town and I am looking forward to see him in person.
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