Book Habit Blog - There There - Tommy Orange

by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange is author of There There recently published and now on the bestseller list. He is a recent graduate of the MFA program at The Institute of American Indian Arts. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.

In There There, Orange looks at Native American life in Oakland, California, through the perspectives of 12 characters. The book, in some ways, reminds me of movies like Robert Altman’s Nashville where you have a large cast of characters, seemingly unrelated to the other. As the book progresses their paths begin to cross, and they edge closer to each other until the reader recognizes the total connection between every one of them.

Orange has the uncanny ability to reflect on the need of Native Americans to connect, to hold on to their history and traditions.

“We made powwows because we needed a place to be together,” he writes. “Something intertribal, something old, something to make us money, something we could work toward, for our jewelry, our songs, our dances, our drum.”

This cast of characters includes an aspiring documentary filmmaker, a boy who teaches himself traditional Native American dance by watching YouTube, a morbidly obese man lost in his own challenge. I guess they’re all lost in their own challenges. These are just a few of the twelve that propel this book to its final and overwhelming climax.

In this vibrant and poignant book, Orange articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself.


~Sam Hankin, The Avid Reader