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Common Read 2019: There There by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange

Photo: © Elena Seibert

About the author

Tommy Orange is a writer and an enrolled member of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes of Oklahoma. Orange was born in raised in Oakland, California, where There There is set. Orange holds an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and was the recipient of a MacDowell fellowship in 2014. His short story, "The State", was published in The New Yorker in March of 2018, and he has published nonfiction in the Los Angeles TimesThere There is his first novel. 


This year's common read is There There by Tommy Orange. There There was named a Best Book of the Year by TIME, O, GQ, The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle.  There There follows the paths of twelve urban Native Americans to the Big Oakland Powwow.  Orange's characters are diverse and tangible and their narratives reflect a range of experiences of  growing up Native American in urban American cities. While each character is on their own journey to the Powwow, they realize along the way that they have more in common than they at first thought.  Tommy Orange's book reflects the poignancy of his characters' lives and the disparity of their upbringings.  There There explores what it means to be Native American in a modern America, and how the historical inheritance of pain, spirituality, strength, and community join together.

Reviews and reactions

‚ÄčYes, Tommy Orange’s New Novel Really Is That Good

“[There There allows] for moments of pure soaring beauty to hit against the most mundane, for a sense of timelessness to be placed right beside a cleareyed version of the here and now.” -- Book review, The New York Times Book Review, June 19, 2018, by Colm Toibin

'There There' Puts Native American Voices Front And Center

There There is pithy and pointed. With a literary authority rare in a debut novel, it places Native American voices front and center before readers' eyes,” -- Book review, NPR, June 18, 2018, by Maureen Corrigan

Tommy Orange and the New Native Renaissance

There There is a work of lyrical panache and structural ambition.” -- Author profile, The Paris Review, June 29, 2018, by Julian Brave Noisecat

Tommy Orange on There There

Tommy Orange on using fiction to explore what it's like to be indigenous and living in an urban environment.

Source: CTV Television Network

The author on campus

Tommy Orange will be speaking on Tuesday, September 3rd at 7:00pm in Chapin Auditorium

Further reading


In the Night of Memory, Linda LeGarde Grover

States of Grace, Stephen Graham Jones

That Guy Wolf Dancing, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn

The Sacred White Turkey, Frances Washburn

Indianland, Lesley Belleau

Nature Poem, Tommy Pico



These sources will help you familiarize yourself with themes, historical context, and references in There There

Reference encyclopedia of the American Indian / Barry T. Klein MH reference, E76.2 .R4 2017

We talk, you listen: new tribes, new turf / Vine DeLoria Jr. MH stacks, E184.A1 D33 2007

Decolonizing Native American rhetoric: communicating self-determination AC Frost stacks, E93 .D343 2018

Documents of American Indian removal / Donna Martinez MH stacks, E98.R4 M37 2019

The heartbeat of Wounded Knee: native America from 1890 to the present / David Treuer MH stacks, E77 .T797 2019

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