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Archive: Other Books > There There by Tommy Orange (5 stars)

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments I started and ended my journey reading There There with tears in my eyes. Yes, it's that good. In fact, it is currently my favorite book of the year and I'll make a prediction that it will be a top contender for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize.

Astonishingly, There There is a debut novel. I say astonishingly because it usually takes time and experience to produce this quality of novel. The book tells the stories of twelve Native American characters from Oakland who are preparing to attend a Powwow. Each of the twelve characters has their own reasons and motivations for attending. For some it is a spiritual or personally significant event, for others it's an opportunity for advancement, both positive and negative.

The book is broken into sections: a prologue, "Remain", "Reclaim", Interlude, "Return", and Powwow. The prologue and interlude are non-fiction, pieces that provide both history and social commentary related to the experiences and lives of Native Americans. And these sections are powerful, emotionally effective, and they enhance the fictional parts of the book in no small part because they are intricately connected with the author's own heritage.

"But what we are is what our ancestors did. How they survived. We are the memories we don't remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for our bounty, or just to get rid of us."

The fictional sections build up to the final Powwow where the 12 characters come together. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the 12 characters and as the book progresses, we see how the lives of all these characters are connected.

One of the things I loved about this book was that it was so fresh and gives readers a glimpse into the lives of Native Americans living in urban locations. This is not your traditional "life on the reservation" story, historical fiction, or Native folklore story (although stories do play a critical role in the book). Tommy Orange highlights the diversity of the Native American experience set in the context of a similar shared history. And he does so from a place of personal experience.  The characters are complex, deeply flawed, and all immeasurably impacted by their history.

"She shuffles her music and it lands on Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks of My Tears." This song gives her that strange mix of sad an happy. Plus it's upbeat. That's what she loves about Motown, the way it asks you to carry sadness and heartbreak but dance while doing so.

Many of the characters in this book carry around sadness and heartbreak while being required to metaphorically dance while doing so. Dance, music, and storytelling are also central to many of the characters as means through which to connect or reconnect to their own heritage.

"You didn't think of tapping or knocking as drumming until you actually started drumming many years later. It would have been good to know that you'd always done something naturally. But there was too much going on with everyone else in your family for anyone to notice you should probably have done something else with your fingers and toes than tap, with your mind and time than knock all the surfaces in your life like you were looking for a way in."

There There is a deeply emotional book. It has been described as a "new American epic" by the New York Times. It's beautifully written and captures a multitude of very different voices. Some sections are poetic, others funny, others obscene and these voices match the varied characters. It's a worthwhile read and one I wholeheartedly recommend. So do yourself a favorite and run out and pick up a copy.


message 2: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7717 comments Yep. Definitely will be reading this one.


message 3: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5521 comments This has been on my wish list for a while and you have moved it to my TBR. I had a feeling it would be that good.


message 4: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 2094 comments I put this on my TBR a few weeks ago but we don't have it at my library yet. So glad to see a positive review!


message 5: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Ellen wrote: "I put this on my TBR a few weeks ago but we don't have it at my library yet. So glad to see a positive review!"

You and I generally like pretty different kinds of books but fingers crossed that we will agree on this one. I hope you like it!


message 6: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Booknblues wrote: "This has been on my wish list for a while and you have moved it to my TBR. I had a feeling it would be that good."

I do think you will like it.


message 7: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2220 comments Definitely adding this


message 8: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5521 comments Jen wrote: "Booknblues wrote: "This has been on my wish list for a while and you have moved it to my TBR. I had a feeling it would be that good."

I do think you will like it."


I think I will, as well.


message 9: by Sushicat (new)

Sushicat | 804 comments Sounds like something I should read.


message 10: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 696 comments So happy to see your review, Hope I can get to this one soon.


message 11: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) | 770 comments This sounds fantastic. I love that he wove the non-fiction into a fictional book. Requesting it from my library right now.


message 12: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) Tommy Orange's There There for the link.


message 13: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments This sounds wonderful.


message 14: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3160 comments I just got a copy last weekend, so it will be read soon! Great review.


message 15: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7255 comments Great review-not sure when I will get to it, but definitely adding to my TBR!


message 16: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments Do you think this is ok for audio? Looking forward to this.


message 17: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Nicole D. wrote: "Do you think this is ok for audio? Looking forward to this."

Yes, it should be fine. It’s jot complicated to follow


message 18: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3160 comments Started today and it is great so far, I'm gripped...


message 19: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 2094 comments You and I generally like pretty different kinds of books but fingers c..."

Well, Jen. It was bound to happen one day. I just finished this one and really liked it. Not quite as much as you did, but I liked it a lot!


message 20: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Ellen wrote: "You and I generally like pretty different kinds of books but fingers c..."

Well, Jen. It was bound to happen one day. I just finished this one and really liked it. Not quite as much as you did, bu..."


I’m glad to hear it!


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