2/19/20

There There


There There by Tommy Orange. New York: Knopf, 2018. 290 pages. *****

It is essential to read the Prologue before jumping into this story. Orange introduces us to his 12 characters, Urban Indians who are unknowingly connected and on a collision course with each other at the Big Oakland Powwow. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Daniel Gonzales creating guns on a 3-D printer and using the money from their sale to purchase a drone and virtual reality goggles. Guns created this way can go through metal detectors without setting off an alarm. Tony Loneman discovers that bullets hidden in socks and thrown over the wall also beat the detectors at the Powwow.

Told in alternating voices and first and third person, this book could be very confusing, but it isn't. Their voices are clear and strong and it isn't difficult to separate the main characters. Orange builds the suspense and while it is apparent that the action is going to happen on the day of the Powwow, it's hard to predict exactly whose paths are going to cross. I wrote some notes as I read with descriptors of each character and why I thought that they might be important. The Prologue sets the stage and explains where the Indians have come from and how they have evolved into  "Urban Indians." Orange has provided a different perspective of what we believe happened at the first Thanksgiving.
Having heard comments from friends and other reviews, I didn't expect to like this book and wondered whether the committee for choosing the One Book One Philadelphia book read it in advance. (I can't imagine recommending a book for a Book Club without reading it first, so having read it, I'm sure that they screen each prospective book) My friends are meeting on Tuesday to discuss it and I am curious as to what their opinion will be on this book. I think I get it, however, I'm not sure if I can articulate what I understand. There's a part of me that thinks Orange could be writing about any members of a culture that has not moved beyond alcoholism, drugs, abandonment, lack of education and unemployment. We have been grappling as a nation with these issues forever; there are no easy answers. I suspect that this book will be a topic of many discussions and readers will either love it or hate it. I'm glad that I read it, it's not something I would have chosen on my own, but I was hooked as soon as I met Tony Loneman. I recommend you read it and decide for yourself.

The Book Group met to discuss this book and the consensus was some liked it and some didn't. Questions centered around the spider's legs, the many relationships among the characters, the 3d gun and the plan to thwart the metal detectors and will it be made into a movie?


There There was chosen as the One Book One Philadelphia choice for 2020. One Book, One Philadelphia is a signature program of the Free Library that promotes literacy, library usage, and civic dialogue by encouraging the entire greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book. There There is accompanied by the One Book youth companion titles If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (grades 5-8), and When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett (K-3). For more information on this program visit the Free Library of Philadelphia and Facebook

Awards:
One of the 10 best books of the year—The New York Times Book Review
A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. 
Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize
Winner of the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Winner of an American Book Award

Tony Orange was born and raised in Oakland, California. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA program. Tommy currently lives in Angels Camp, California, with his wife and son.


#onebookonephiladelphia #therethere #UrbanIndians

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