Library Blog

Featured Book

Monday, December 3, 2018

This month we are featuring the debut novel written by Tommy Orange, There, There. (The book takes its title from Gertrude Stein's line about Oakland, CA, "There is no there there.") The book takes place at the Big Oakland Powwow, a cultural festival held at the Oakland Coliseum, focusing on twelve people with deep ties to the Native American community. The Powwow is a place according to Orange, where people come to learn about their heritage. The book starts off with a prologue by Orange (more of an essay): "Our heads are on flags, jerseys, and coins. Our heads were on the penny first, of course, the Indian 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, are now out of circulation."


Tommy Orange graduated from the MFA program at The Institute of American Indian Arts, where he now teaches. He told the NYT: "It's a really powerful thing to be part of a native writing community." Orange grew up in Oakland and was a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Orange says he struggled for several years over the structure of his book. In an interview with the NYT he says: "I wanted to have my characters struggle in the way that I struggled, and the way that I see other native people struggle, with identity and with authenticity." Mr. Orange has said that he envisioned a narrative with a large cast of characters, partly as a way to address how little has been written about the lives of urban Native Americans.


There, There is so compelling that Elizabeth Roach (Dean of Teaching and Learning) and Emily Pressman (History department chair) decided to teach the book this semester in their combined AS Humanities class. Will Speers is also teaching Orange's book in his AS English 4 class. Macklin Fishman '19, a member of the Roach/Pressman course, had this to say about the book thus far, "In his novel There, ThereTommy Orange gives the Native American community a voice in a modern setting, fighting to honor tradition while maintaining relevance. This book is incredibly important, beautifully written, and fun to read!" Sharon Williams '19, also a member of the Roach/Pressman class says: "There There by Tommy Orange redefines the word culture and gives it a fresh meaning. This novel challenges the way America understands the traditions of Indigenous people and their take on modernization. This is a MUST read." Diana Honey '19 writes: "There, There is an emotionally intense, breathtakingly beautiful novel that inspires thought about the innate biases within ourselves and our society. I would highly recommend reading it!"


There, There has drawn many accolades from well-known writers as well as the publishing community. Among others, it was long-listed for the National Book Award, named one of the 10 Best Books of 2018 by the New York Times Book Review and won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. This book is available in the library on the shelf as a hardback, on Kindle, and through the Audible app.


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