There There

There There

Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking—Tommy Orange’s first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen, and it introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career. There There is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history o...

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Title:There There
Author:Tommy Orange
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Edition Language:English

There There Reviews

  • Hannah

    This debut is absolutely 100% incredible. Marlon James called it a thunderclap and I have to agree. This might be my favourite read of the year so far. And as is often the case when I adore a book this much, writing a review does not come particularly easy because I want to do it justice without just reverting to hyperboles.

    This book is told from 12 widely different perspectives that converge on the Big Oakland Powwow, and also includes some non-fiction parts in between. It is impeccably structu

    This debut is absolutely 100% incredible. Marlon James called it a thunderclap and I have to agree. This might be my favourite read of the year so far. And as is often the case when I adore a book this much, writing a review does not come particularly easy because I want to do it justice without just reverting to hyperboles.

    This book is told from 12 widely different perspectives that converge on the Big Oakland Powwow, and also includes some non-fiction parts in between. It is impeccably structured in a way that was both entertaining and heartbreaking and also very clever. I happen to really adore short stories that connect to a greater whole – and the first occurence of each person could stand on its own in a way that I found highly impressive.

    The voices are distinct and different, in tone and narrative choice, in the way their language flows and in the metaphors they use – I found the way Tommy Orange juggles these different styles impressive without being just that. Sometimes, when a book is this accomplished it feels very dry and intellectual, but this one was also very raw and honest and also angry in a way that really worked for me. Tommy Orange shows a great tenderness for his characters in all their flaws (and there are plenty).

    The book is funny and sad and poignant and just so so so well done. I do not have the words except to urge you to read it. I will be reading anything Tommy Orange decides to write next.

    You can find this review and other thoughts on books on

  • Myrna

    If you haven’t heard of Tommy Orange yet, you soon will. This is one of those books that you're simultaneously dying to finish yet don't ever want to finish.

    Orange paints a vivid picture in short chapters through different points of view as the story unfolds. The powwow becomes the centerpiece of the story with the dozen or so characters eventually heading toward it. The characters and their storylines drew me in and made me care, though not all are likable. I grew attached to a lot o

    If you haven’t heard of Tommy Orange yet, you soon will. This is one of those books that you're simultaneously dying to finish yet don't ever want to finish.

    Orange paints a vivid picture in short chapters through different points of view as the story unfolds. The powwow becomes the centerpiece of the story with the dozen or so characters eventually heading toward it. The characters and their storylines drew me in and made me care, though not all are likable. I grew attached to a lot of them (and sad to say goodbye when the story ended) like Jacquie Red Feather, Opal Bear Shield, and Blue.

    Powerful novel of the Urban Indians’ identity, family, loss, and strength. It is truly a satisfying read and I hope there is a sequel. Found myself talking about it with family and friends who have not read the book. This may be my favorite book of 2018 and it gets a solid 5★s+ from me!

  • Matthew Quann

    If you came here looking for a scale-tipping review, look no further. In fact, imagine me clearing off any weight on the opposing side and planting my considerable heft on the side favoring your reading of this novel. If you’ve ever picked up a book because of my reviews, then trust me: this is one you’re going to want in your hands posthaste.

    is a novel we’ll be seeing crop up on best-of and award sho

    If you came here looking for a scale-tipping review, look no further. In fact, imagine me clearing off any weight on the opposing side and planting my considerable heft on the side favoring your reading of this novel. If you’ve ever picked up a book because of my reviews, then trust me: this is one you’re going to want in your hands posthaste.

    is a novel we’ll be seeing crop up on best-of and award shortlists later this year and you’d be remiss to miss out on Tommy Orange’s impressive debut.

    As a matter of fact, the less you know about this book, the better.

    I'm not going to spoil the novel, but the true enjoyment comes from the unveiling of the 12 diverse voices that make up the cast of

    , anyways. Each character seems as if they could carry their own novel on voice alone. Be it humor, pathos, despair, joy, shame, or a yearning for lost culture, Tommy Orange managed to etch each character’s specific voice into my mind like names written in unset concrete. Their voices are powerful, resonant, and made the book’s reading compulsive.

    To Orange’s credit, these diverse characters begin to become linked over the course of this story’s telling. As the Big Oakland Powwow looms ever closer, Orange begins to reel in threads you hadn’t realized were part of the same netting. I found myself blown away by the first few instances of familial or passing connection. I’d flip back to previous chapters as the time-hopping chapters began to nestle into a tight narrative that reflected the novel’s overarching themes. You wouldn’t be remiss if you’re thinking of Diaz, Mitchell, or Chabon.

    Orange handles the Native American struggle in Oakland with a complexity that displays an incredible amount of thought, anguish, and introspection. Orange tackles the loss of Native American culture to colonialism in the same chapter that presents a forward-looking approach to cultural identity. The ideas here seem well-trod, complex, and offer no easy answers to the reader. Indeed, the multiperspectivity of the novel allows for a dialogue between the chapters that doesn’t always happen between the characters. By the novel’s end, I was left conflicted and unsure, but happy to have questions with which to wrestle.

    Yet, this book is not one that is excessively heady or philosophical. In the book’s opening chapters a suggestively white, 3D-printed handgun arrives as if to announce: this is both the story you have heard and one you’ve never read before. As it happens, part of the book’s enduring charm is that it is paced like a thriller. There is violence, heartbreak, and boundless emotion waiting on every page. As the chronally-expansive timeline begins to be tied closer together, it is impossible to avert your attention from the bombastic climax Orange has so carefully laid out.

    I’m writing this review from an airport bar, but I finished the book a bit over a day ago. As I walked through the terminal, waiting for my flight number to be called, I puttered my way through the quasi-bookstore offerings. Across the three, or maybe four, stores,

    was displayed prominently. It was a heartwarming sight: this is a book that I’m sure many people will love, but even more will benefit from having had read. It’s a novel that invites you to expand your empathy, to rethink conventional thought, and to immerse yourself in the mindsets of a cast of characters who are both like and unlike you.

    The book is powerful, pulse-pounding, harrowing, eye-opening, and, most-importantly, fresh. This is Orange’s first novel, and you have to wonder what else the man has in his back pocket. This book is so expansive, so filled with beautiful voices and unique writing styles that the mind reels at what Orange could have possibly held back. Perhaps this novel is so powerful because he gave it all he had, because so little was left gestating in the back of his mind. This is the debut of an amazing and essential voice on the American literature scene.

    is a novel that is both a scream and a serenade.

    is a book that is going to stick with me for years to come.

  • Elyse

    Update: Terrific pick!!!! 2018 National Book Award Longlist.... Fiction!!

    5+++++ stars!!!!! Absolutely phenomenal!!!!!

    “There There” is a non-stop pace story... COULD NOT PUT THIS DOWN....

    The stories in here are gut wrenching *intimate* about dislocation-identify-violence -loss-hope-and power.

    “We have been defined by everyone else and continue to be slandered despite easy-to-look-up-Internet-facts about realities of our histories and current state as a people”.

    The despair and beauty in Tommy Or

    Update: Terrific pick!!!! 2018 National Book Award Longlist.... Fiction!!

    5+++++ stars!!!!! Absolutely phenomenal!!!!!

    “There There” is a non-stop pace story... COULD NOT PUT THIS DOWN....

    The stories in here are gut wrenching *intimate* about dislocation-identify-violence -loss-hope-and power.

    “We have been defined by everyone else and continue to be slandered despite easy-to-look-up-Internet-facts about realities of our histories and current state as a people”.

    The despair and beauty in Tommy Orange’s debut novel entwined the history of a nation and indigenous community in Oakland, Calif.

    Incredible characters.

    Dialogue with feelings.

    Warmth, pride, sediments for Oakland-raised Tommy Orange!

    Congratulations to him!!!

    He knocked the ball out of the park with this outstanding novel!!!!

  • Rose (Traveling Sister)

    How could I give this poetic tapestry of cultural politics any fewer than 5 stars?

    That's exactly what

    consists of: the abridged life timelines of a diverse yet interwoven cast of characters - young and old, good and bad, but all Native American. The Big Oakland Powwow is drawing tribe members from all over, not just for the various prize money but also as an opportunity to connect with

    How could I give this poetic tapestry of cultural politics any fewer than 5 stars?

    That's exactly what

    consists of: the abridged life timelines of a diverse yet interwoven cast of characters - young and old, good and bad, but all Native American. The Big Oakland Powwow is drawing tribe members from all over, not just for the various prize money but also as an opportunity to connect with each other and their stifled heritage.

    Many of the characters are experiencing desperation for one reason or another - addiction, stalled dreams, demons from their pasts - and each one has their own reason for visiting the upcoming powwow. If it sounds like this novel doesn't have much of a plot, this is where the powwow comes in. While it's definitely more of a character-driven book, something major is set to happen at the powwow, which is the climax. Let me just say that it is one of the most concise, expertly-written scenes of poetic drama that I've ever read.

    As the novel moves forward, we learn how each of these characters is connected, whether by motive, experience, or family itself. The central question at the heart of

    is what it means to be Native. 

    Many of the cast are so young that they know very little about their marred ancestry, and what they do know is a very antiquated, stereotypical picture of feathered headdresses and alcoholism. Tommy Orange does a phenomenal job of explaining why so much of the Native timeline has been lost. There's a prologue and intermission where he addresses the reader directly, filling us in on historical facts that are crucial to the Native experience.

    I assure you the novel is not all doom and gloom, however. Every voice has its own sense of humor, and there's no shortage of touching or silly moments.

    I think Tommy Orange has created a new genre: Poignant Historical Slam Suspense. Read this for a lesson that most of us have never learned because it's been suppressed since the dawn of America. 

  • Angela M

    Before I even finished reading this, I began hoping that Tommy Orange was already working on his next book. Beautifully written, creatively and skillfully structured with the stories of multiple characters, each one important and affecting on their own, but when meshed with connections that unfold I was blown away. For a short time these narratives seem like individual stories until one by one the characters become connected and their collective story is brutal, honest and sad and powerful. It w

    Before I even finished reading this, I began hoping that Tommy Orange was already working on his next book. Beautifully written, creatively and skillfully structured with the stories of multiple characters, each one important and affecting on their own, but when meshed with connections that unfold I was blown away. For a short time these narratives seem like individual stories until one by one the characters become connected and their collective story is brutal, honest and sad and powerful. It will be at the Powwow in Oakland that family will be reunited with family, that some of them will face their demons, and some of them will find out who they are, and most of them become part of the tragedy that takes place there.

    The description had me thinking I’d be reading about Native Americans of the present day, the urban Indian and that’s true BUT don’t think for a minute that Tommy Orange is going to be gentle with you and allow you to ignore the past. The Prologue - Indian Heads, massacres, snippets of history that filled me with sorrow, with a feeling of complicit guilt. He’s not gentle with the reader in the present either, he is honest. There is alcoholism and there are drugs, and suicide and questions of identity and family that lead to tragedies. Yet, in the midst of all of this we can find love through one of my favorite characters Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield. We find hope in Orvil Red Feather who just wants to go to the Powwow to dance, to be a part of his past, of which he knows little about. In Jacquie Red Feather, there is the wish for redemption. I loved that Dene Oxendene carries out his uncles dream of filming native Americans telling their stories. I loved that Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield’s mother tells her that she “shouldn’t ever not tell our stories.” I love that Tommy Orange took that advice. He educates us. I must have lived under a rock as I had never heard of the occupation of Alcatraz island by Indians of All Tribes in 1969 - 1971 and I had never the term urban Indian. This is a profound book, one that I hope will win awards.

  • Rick Riordan

    Tommy Orange's debut novel is already getting a lot of love, but I have to chime in with my praise, too. For one thing, There, There is set in Oakland, where I lived for most of the 90s, and reading it brought back a lot of memories. The author hits us with a buckshot blast of wonderful characters, self-described "Urban Indians," each with his/her own short, interwoven chapters. We follow their interconnected lives as they prepare for the first Big Oakland Pow Wow. They are drawn there for many

    Tommy Orange's debut novel is already getting a lot of love, but I have to chime in with my praise, too. For one thing, There, There is set in Oakland, where I lived for most of the 90s, and reading it brought back a lot of memories. The author hits us with a buckshot blast of wonderful characters, self-described "Urban Indians," each with his/her own short, interwoven chapters. We follow their interconnected lives as they prepare for the first Big Oakland Pow Wow. They are drawn there for many different reasons -- to reconnect, to make money, to dance, to record stories. Unfortunately, a few of them are planning to rob the Pow Wow. Orange provides deft, beautifully crafted portraits of their lives, so by the time the hold-up come and (SPOILER) the heist does not go as planned, we care about how all of them will fare. The ending is perfect -- unfinished, jagged with emotion, and yet still full of perseverance and hope. I won't say this read was 'easy.' It packs an emotional wallop. But the pages fly by, thanks to the short chapters and varying points of view.

  • Diane S ☔

    Dene Oxedene, putting his life back together after his uncle's death, wins a grant, allowing him to video stories from those attending the Oakland Pow Wow. In alternating voices we follow the lives and stories of twelve different characters, many who have fallen on hard times of one kind or another. So in a way, these are connected, though the same people appear more than once, short episodes in the lives of those who have lost touch with their culture. This is in most cases through no fault of

    Dene Oxedene, putting his life back together after his uncle's death, wins a grant, allowing him to video stories from those attending the Oakland Pow Wow. In alternating voices we follow the lives and stories of twelve different characters, many who have fallen on hard times of one kind or another. So in a way, these are connected, though the same people appear more than once, short episodes in the lives of those who have lost touch with their culture. This is in most cases through no fault of their own, but it is clear that this loss of culture has caused them to never feel as if they belong, even in their own country. Fractured selves.

    The urban Indian in Oakland, is the focus here. Something I never knew about, so another difficult learning situation. A terrific debut novel, told in an angry, raw tone, these stories, these lives are full of anguish, pain and yes love. All are heading to the Pow Wow in Oakland, but for different reasons. One young boy wants to dance, his native dance though he knows little about his culture. He hopes to find acceptance and a sense of belonging. Others are heading there for different reasons, and the closer it gets the more the tension is ratcheted higher.

    Tommy Ornge is a bright new talent for sure, but even more so he opens the readers eyes to issues of which like me, they are not aware. That is a good and powerful thing.

    ARC from publisher.

  • Emily May

    Orange's ambitious debut captures the experience of modern "urban Indians" through constantly shifting third person perspectives, ultimately showing that Native Americans are

    .

    The author takes a number of risks, and yet they all work to create a book of such extreme power that it'

    Orange's ambitious debut captures the experience of modern "urban Indians" through constantly shifting third person perspectives, ultimately showing that Native Americans are

    .

    The author takes a number of risks, and yet they all work to create a book of such extreme power that it's hard to come away from it unchanged.

    is much-needed and important, but I kind of hate saying that. There seems to be some underlying implication in those words that the book has been hyped due to it's sociopolitical importance, and that's just not the case. Orange's characters are vivid and complex. He has somehow written a book where every chapter is from a different point of view and yet every single character's voice is unique and engaging.

    The characters and stories here are not the stereotypes most non-native Americans are familiar with. It's not about reservations or the old stories, but about the struggles of modern Indians in the inner cities. Struggles with identity, community, substance addictions and poverty. It is so easy to think of Native Americans as a stereotype, as a cartoon character with feathers in their hair, but of course, the truth is so much more complicated.

    It is difficult to survive in a modern society that has been defined by white Europeans, whilst also trying to maintain something of the culture that those white Europeans worked to erase. Through personalities that come to life on the page, Orange explores the many facets of being Native American today. From Jacquie Red Feather, whose existence is a constant battle against alcoholism, to the mixed race Edwin Black who has never met his Native father.

    What is noticeable about

    is how this thoughtful literary novel is extremely accessible. The author's writing is a pleasure to read-- compelling, conversational, but no less powerful because of it.

    Orange sets these stories of everyday people and lives alongside his own voice in the harrowing prologue and interlude. He takes these brief moments to write about the history of Native Americans - how treaties became murder and betrayal - and provide information about the Native culture, such as the details of pow wows. I somewhat knew the history already and yet a reminder can be a valuable thing; listening to this man of Native descent describe how his ancestors were tricked and brutally murdered is a chilling experience, and one all non-natives should have.

    A brutal, insightful novel, with a sea of memorable characters. Each one very different, and yet all connected.

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