There There - Tommy Orange

Staff Pick

Read the title fast, and it might seem like the soothing “there, there” offered at moments of disquiet. But There There has little that’s comforting about it. Drawing the title from Gertrude Stein’s often misunderstood remark about Oakland, “there’s no there there,” Orange in his tremendous debut novel wants “to bring something new to the vision of the Native experience” by presenting the untold and as yet unstereotyped “Urban Indian story.” He brilliantly accomplishes this in twelve vivid interwoven profiles that tap into the “real passion…and rage” of Native Americans in contemporary Oakland. Powerful and moving, these virtuoso narratives bring us into the lives of children and grandparents, single mothers and drug thugs, recovering alcoholics and victims of abuse. All have complicated relationships with their heritage. Some are members of one or more specific nations, others don’t know where they belong. Some are always conscious of their identity, others feel Indian only when dressed in Indian regalia. For many, their heritage is too easily confused with patronizing images. One worries that “virtually everything” he’d “learned about being Indian he’d learned virtually.” Is he authentic or only a “Pretendian,” conforming to white-mediated assumptions about Native life? For those half-white/half-Native, the challenges are still greater. One man holds advanced degrees in Native American lit but has no confidence he knows how to be a Native American. Another man feels his mixed race puts him in the crosshairs of history, that he’s “from a people who took and took and took and took. And from a people taken.” Through such intimate and urgent stories Orange recovers the “there” of a Native history that’s “been paved over.” At the same time he emphatically ends American Indians’ long struggle “to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant.”

There There: A novel By Tommy Orange Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525520375
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - June 5th, 2018