In the first half of 2018, people just couldn’t stop talking about a debut novel that would be released soon, and then after it was released, people still couldn’t stop talking about it. The New York Times called it ‘a new kind of American epic’. It was shortlisted for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel. It won the Aspen Words Literary Prize, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize. Margaret Atwood called it an astonishing literary debut, Barack Obama included it in his list of favourite books of 2018, as did The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, NPR, Time magazine, The Oprah Magazine, and Buzzfeed, among many others.
There There by Tommy Orange is the story of about twenty Native Americans who either live in Oakland or come to Oakland, most of whom will be attending a powwow there, a Native American cultural conference. We learn about their personal histories, their dreams amd ambitions, whom they love or have loved. The book is beautiful and complex and sad. It is about alcoholism, depression, drug use, criminality, rape, teenage pregnancies, strong women, absent fathers; about the importance or unimportance of knowing where you come from. About visibility and invisibility. But in the end, it is mainly about hope. Hope for a better future, hope to find loved ones, hope to stay alive at all. Both as a person, and as a people.
Tommy Orange 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, with his wife and son. Ladies & gentlemen, Tommy Orange.