There There by Tommy Orange [in Library Journal]
“[B]eing able to understand where we came from, what happened to our people, and how to honor them by living right, by telling our stories” could be goals for any community – but the words are especially resonant for debut novelist Tommy Orange’s sprawling Native American cast: “the world is made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories.” Most important, “we should never not tell our stories,” a dying mother urges her daughter.
Orange presents more than a dozen men, women, and children confronting broken families, socioeconomic entrapment, cultural erasure, and tenacious reclamation who initially seem to share little more than their Oakland setting. Their Native connections will link their stories as Orange – of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma – moves each toward the Big Oakland Powwow, an epic, explosive event that will both reunite and destroy.
Narrators Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Kyla García, and Alma Cuervo help to keep characters distinct; that all but Cuervo identify as Native American/First Nations undoubtedly enhances their nuanced performances.
While bearing witness to history (his piercing preface fiercely encapsulates a half-millennium of Native experiences), Orange commands urgent, immediate attention in this masterly montage of voices, lives, visions, tragedies, and dreams.