While browsing the Carr Library recreational reading collection recently, I eagerly picked up There, There by Tommy Orange. This book had been on my “to read” list but had proved difficult to get at my public library, so I was thrilled to get a copy. I began reading it that evening and was immediately wowed. Orange, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, has written a stunning debut novel that sheds light on the horrendous atrocities indigenous people have suffered for centuries and continue to endure.
In telling the tale of 12 characters making their way to The Big Oakland Powwow, Orange paints a poignant picture of the Native American community in Oakland, CA, expertly weaving together a number of intertwined stories. These stories are interspersed with essays on the Native American experience and condition, which help define and outline how American history has been whitewashed over the years. It is a crucial reminder of how indigenous people throughout the Americas have been pushed aside to the outer fringes of society. How much of their once vibrant culture has been lost, and continues to slip away.
Orange’s prose is a perfect balance of caution and urgency, humor and pain, scarcity and expansiveness. His anger bubbles just beneath the surface, rising to a crescendo of emotion and experience that explodes across the page. He vividly brings the thoughts, energy and hopes of these characters to life. I strongly believe There, There should be required reading for all young people in America.
I’m excited to hear Tommy Orange speak to the Rutgers community on Wed., Jan 12.
For additional reading by Tommy Orange see:
- “The Team,” a short story featured in The Decameron Project: 29 New Stories from the Pandemic, published in New York Times Magazine
- “Scorekeep,” a book chapter featured in Bodies Built for Game
- “Escape Velocity,” an article in Esquire
- “The Long View,” an article in Tribal College