The title of Tommy Orange’s novel, There There, references Gertrude Stein’s famous dismissal of Oakland: “there is no there there.” In so doing, Orange recasts Oakland as a destination; it’s not a place of departure but one of belonging and complicated affiliation for his sprawling cast of Native American characters. Indeed, Oakland draws with centripetal force an extended family to its core for a much-anticipated pow-wow, revealing a gritty, beautiful, and disturbing urban Indian landscape. The compelling characters and vivid descriptions reveal a profoundly different there there that will change the way readers see and think about Oakland, its people, its history, and its possible futures.
—BETH PIATOTE, Professor of Ethnic Studies
Student reviewers offered comments such as these:
“[E]very aspect of this book seems like a strength. It’s very powerful, the story is compelling, the ending is devastating. This book makes you feel intensely and think about all sorts of things. It does an incredible job at making the reader imagine people complexly. There is no one in the book you don’t empathize with, there is no one character you can call a villain. Every character is so complicated and flawed and deserving of compassion.”
“The visceral emotions of the different characters come across vibrantly and beautifully. In following multiple characters throughout the novel, readers see multiple perspectives and personalities that they can relate to on some level. Additionally, the novel’s focus on indigenous identity, familial troubles, and its setting in Oakland makes it very relevant and important to a wide range of readers and in today’s time.”
“It is a unique book that teaches the hardships of life, and at the same time teaches the beauty of it.”
“I just found the book incredibly moving. I also learned a lot; reading this book on Thanksgiving was a really strange experience, and I had very different feelings this Thanksgiving break than I did last year. It’s made me rethink a lot in my life. I think everyone should read it.”
Tommy Orange is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel There There, a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about a side of America few of us have ever seen: the lives of urban Native Americans. 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 Angel’s Camp, California.
News and Resources
Goodreads Community: On the Same Page with Tommy Orange
This is a group for students, faculty and staff at UC Berkeley who are reading There There and would like to discuss it with other members of the Cal family.
A Conversation with Tommy Orange
Mon, 08/26/2019 – 7:30pm
Haas Pavilion, UC Berkeley campus
Join us on Monday, August 26, 2019, for a keynote event featuring author Tommy Orange, who will be interviewed onstage by Professor Beth Piatote (Native American Studies). Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
Indigenous Bay Area
Wed, 09/18/2019 – 4:00pm
Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
Moderator: Line Mikkelsen (Linguistics, UC Berkeley)
Vincent Medina (Chochenyo Ohlone, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe)
Peter Nelson (Coast Miwok, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria; American Indian Studies, San Diego State University)
Linda Yamane (Rumsien Ohlone)
Routes of Resistance: American Indian Activism from the 1960s to Present
Mon, 09/23/2019 – 4:00pm
Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall
Moderator: Carolyn Smith (Karuk, Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley)
Eloy Martinez (Southern Ute, Activist, Alcatraz, Wounded Knee, Standing Rock)
Ron Goode (North Fork Mono, Tribal Chairman of the North Fork Mono Tribe)
Terry Supahan (Karuk, Executive Director, True North Organizing Network)
California on the Page
Thu, 09/18/2019 – 4:00pm
Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
Moderator: Hertha Sweet Wong (English, UC Berkeley)
Chiyuma Elliott (author of California Winter League)
Alberto Ledesma (author of Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer)
Karen Llagas (author of Archipelago Dust)
The Derek Miller Band: In Concert!
Mon 10/21/2019 – 6:00pm
The Multicultural Community Center, MLK Student Union