Review: There There by Tommy Orange

August 29, 2018
There There, Tommy Orange, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on June 5, 2018
Format Read: Audio Book (8hrs 1min)
Genre: Adult/ Contemporary/ Native American Lit
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Scribd
There There
Jacquie Red Feather and her sister Opal grew up together, relying on each other during their unsettled childhood. As adults they were driven apart, but Jacquie is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. That’s why she is there.

Dene is there because he has been collecting stories to honour his uncle's death. Edwin is looking for his true father. Opal came to watch her boy Orvil dance. All of them are connected by bonds they may not yet understand.

All of them are there for the celebration of culture that is the Big Oakland Powwow.

But Tony Loneman is also there. And Tony has come to the Powwow with darker intentions.


Content Warning: Rape, Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, Graphic Violence


This book is for everybody. A reflection of history, Native American identity, race, family and violence. I was blown away by how I could sympathize and empathize with the many characters that are introduced. The book is told from multiple points of view all building up to the Oakland Pow Wow. Between the changing point of views the author includes reflections on Native History and the circumstances  Native Americans find themselves in today. It worked well because it gave deeper context to the characters struggling to live up to the importance of their existence.
"This is the thing: If you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that’s how you know you’re on board the ship that serves hors d’oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning, or clinging to little inflatable rafts that they have to take turns keeping inflated, people short of breath, who’ve never even heard of the words hors d’oeuvres or fluff."
The author is a master story teller who is able to weave in humor, emotion and details together seamlessly. Many of the characters struggle with substance abuse, poverty, and domestic violence. All of them finding ways to grieve, and understand the world around them. The characters are relatable because they are flawed and persevere through pain they can't even slow down to acknowledge. This book is packed full of emotionally charged well written prose. Although it dealt with serious topics the use of humor and changing point of views helped to keep the story going. I'm not going to discuss the plot because it is secondary to the powerful character development.

"Life will do its best to get at you. Sneak up from behind and shatter you, into tiny unrecognizable pieces. You have to be ready to pick everything up pragmatically. Keep your head down and make it work."
Native Americans are continuing to fight for their land, represent their culture and survive in America. This book forces you to look at the hole filled history were taught about America. You should be prepared to cry when you read this book. These characters and experiences weave a tapestry of blows to your heart that you can't look away from. There is something here to relate to, remember and learn for everyone. I can't wait to read everything this author writes. The narrators of this audio book were  fantastic, so you can enjoy this book in any format. 
“Kids are jumping out the windows of burning buildings, falling to their deaths. And we think the problem is that they’re jumping. This is what we’ve done: We’ve tried to find ways to get them to stop jumping. Convince them that burning alive is better than leaving when the shit gets too hot for them to take. We’ve boarded up windows and made better nets to catch them, found more convincing ways to tell them not to jump. They’re making the decision that it’s better to be dead and gone than to be alive in what we have here, this life, the one we made for them, the one they’ve inherited.
Recommended for Readers who
-enjoy powerful engaging stories told from multiple points of view
-appreciate Native American stories and history
-want to remember characters who are emotionally impactful for a long time


Tommy Orange, InToriLex
Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California.

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