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There There
Cover of There There
There There
A Novel
Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with stunning urgency and force.
Here is a story of several people, each of whom has private reasons for travelling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life together after his uncle's death and has come to work at the powwow to honour his uncle's memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.
Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking, There There is a relentlessly paced multi-generational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. A glorious, unforgettable debut.
Here is a voice we have never heard—a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with stunning urgency and force.
Here is a story of several people, each of whom has private reasons for travelling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life together after his uncle's death and has come to work at the powwow to honour his uncle's memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.
Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking, There There is a relentlessly paced multi-generational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. A glorious, unforgettable debut.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield


    Me and my sister, Jacquie, were doing our homework in the living room with the TV on when our mom came home withthe news that we'd be moving to Alcatraz.
    "Pack your things. We're going over there. Today," our mom said. And we knew what she meant. We'd been over there to celebrate not celebrating Thanksgiving.
    Back then we lived in East Oakland, in a yellow house. It was the brightest but smallest house on the block. A two-bedroom with a tiny kitchen that couldn't even fit a table. I didn't love it there, the carpets were too thin and smelled like dirt and smoke. We didn't have a couch or TV at first, but it was definitely better than where we were before.
    One morning our mom woke us up in a hurry, her face was beat up. She had a brown leather jacket way too big for her draped over her shoulders. Both her top and bottom lips were swollen. Seeing those big lips messed me up. She couldn't talk right. She told us to pack our things then too.
    Jacquie's last name is Red Feather, and mine is Bear Shield. Both our dads had left our mom. That morning our mom came home beat up, we took the bus to a new house, the yellow house. I don't know how she got us a house. On the bus I moved closer to my mom and put a hand into her jacket pocket.
    "Why do we got names like we do?" I said.
    "They come from old Indian names. We had our own way of naming before white people came over and spread all those dad names around in order to keep the power with the dads."
    I didn't understand this explanation about dads. And I didn't know if Bear Shield meant shields that bears used to protect themselves, or shields people used to protect themselves against bears, or were the shields themselves made out of bears? Either way it was all pretty hard to explain in school, how I was a Bear Shield, and that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was my first name, which was two: Opal Viola. That makes me Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield. Victoria was our mom's name, even though she went by Vicky, and Opal Viola came from our grandma who we never met. Our mom told us she was a medicine woman and renowned singer of spiritual songs, so I was supposed to carry that big old name around with honor. The good thing was, the kids didn't have to do anything to my name to make fun of me, no rhymes or variations. They just said the whole thing and it was funny.


    We got on a bus on a cold gray morning in late January 1970. Me and Jacquie had matching beat-up old red duffel bags that didn't hold much, but we didn't have much. I packed two outfits and tucked my teddy bear, Two Shoes, under my arm. The name Two Shoes came from my sister, because her childhood teddy bear only had one shoe the way they got it. Her bear wasn't named One Shoe, but maybe I should have considered myself lucky to have a bear with two shoes and not just one. But then bears don't wear shoes, so maybe I wasn't lucky either but something else.


    Out on the sidewalk, our mom turned to face the house. "Say goodbye to it, girls."
    I'd gotten used to keeping an eye on the front door. I'd seen more than a few eviction notices. And sure enough, one was right there. Our mom always kept them up so she could claim she never saw them, in order to buy time.
    Me and Jacquie looked up at the house. It'd been okay, the yellow house. For what it was. The first one we'd been in without either of the dads, so it'd been quiet, and even sweet, like the banana cream pie our mom made the first night we spent there, when the gas worked but the electricity hadn't been turned on yet, and we ate standing up in the kitchen, in...
About the Author-
  • 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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 2, 2018
    Orange’s commanding debut chronicles contemporary Native Americans in Oakland, as their lives collide in the days leading up to the city’s inaugural Big Oakland Powwow. Bouncing between voices and points of view, Orange introduces 12 characters, their plotlines hinging on things like 3-D–printed handguns and VR-controlled drones. Tony Loneman and Octavio Gomez see the powwow as an opportunity to pay off drug debts via a brazen robbery. Others, like Edwin Black and Orvil Red Feather, view the gathering as a way to connect with ancestry and, in Edwin’s case, to meet his father for the first time. Blue, who was given up for adoption, travels to Oklahoma in an attempt to learn about her family, only to return to Oakland as the powwow’s coordinator. Orvil’s grandmother, Jacquie, who abandoned her family years earlier, reappears in the city with powwow emcee Harvey, whom she briefly dated when the duo lived on Alcatraz Island as adolescents. Time and again, the city is a magnet for these individuals. The propulsion of both the overall narrative and its players are breathtaking as Orange unpacks how decisions of the past mold the present, resulting in a haunting and gripping story. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc.

  • The New York Times "Bravura... There There has so much jangling energy and brings so much news from a distinct corner of American life that it's a revelation... its appearance marks the passing of a generational baton."
  • Louise Erdrich, Birchbark Books "Welcome to a brilliant and generous artist who has already enlarged the landscape of American fiction. There There is a comic vision haunted by profound sadness. Tommy Orange is a new writer with an old heart."
  • Margaret Atwood via Twitter "A gripping deep dive into urban indigenous community in California: an astonishing literary debut!"
  • Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings "There There drops on us like a thunderclap; the big, booming, explo­sive sound of twenty-first-century literature finally announcing itself. Essential."
  • David Chariandy, author of Brother "There There is truly brilliant, a debut that is gritty, compassionate, and stylistically fierce. Tommy Orange has found language that bridges history and the raw heat of the now. You need to read this book."
  • Omar El Akkad, author of American War "There There is a miraculous achievement, a book that wields ferocious honesty and originality in service of telling a story that needs to be told. This is a novel about what it means to inhabit a land both yours and stolen from you, to simultaneously contend with the weight of be­longing and unbelonging. There is an organic power to this book--a revelatory, controlled chaos. Tommy Orange writes the way a storm makes landfall."
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