The Official Rogue Book Club: Tommy Orange
Thursday, March 25, 2021
This month, the Official Rogue Book Club is taking on There There, the acclaimed debut novel by Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange. Published in 2018, it was heralded by NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle, and O, The Oprah Magazine as an instant classic. The book received multiple awards, including the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the 2018 John Leonard Prize, and the 2019 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction.
Described as “masterful . . . white-hot . . . devastating” (The Washington Post), There There is the story of twelve Native Americans living in Oakland, California, whose paths converge during the Big Oakland Powwow. The novel takes its name from a passage by writer/collector Gertrude Stein on returning to her hometown of Oakland after years abroad. Finding herself a stranger in a once familiar land she noted, "There is no there there." For Orange, the cities and towns of America represent, "buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there."
Pithy, pointed, angry, and sometimes funny, There There is a thoroughly modern tale about the urban Native American experience. As the author writes, this is the tale of Native peoples who know, "the sound of the freeway better than [they] do rivers . . . the smell of gas and freshly wet concrete and burned rubber better than [they] do the smell of cedar or sage . . ." As The New York Times noted in their review, it's an "an ambitious meditation on identity and its broken alternatives, on myth filtered through the lens of time and poverty and urban life, on tradition all the more pressing because of its fragility."
About the Author
Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. Described by Penguin Random House Canada as “ a voice we have never hear — a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with urgency and force," Orange is considered part of the "vanguard of a new generation of Native American writers" (NPR).
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