There There by Tommy Orange

There There is a gripping novel about a collection of people brought together by the Big Oakland Powwow, telling a story of cycles of violence and family. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and back in Oakland after a long time, not sure if she’s ready to see her grandsons and her sister Opal. Edwin is looking for his father and proving he can get out of the house and do things. Dene is collecting Native stories about Oakland to honour his uncle. Blue is organising the event and looking for her mother. And all the while, a plan to rob the powwow lurks beneath the preparations.

This is an explosive novel with a lot of energy. The narrative weaves the perspectives of a number of interconnected characters, telling the stories of how they ended up at the powwow and how their lives have unfolded in and around Oakland. It has a very distinctive sense of place as well as character, focusing on urban Native American life and identity. Oakland is really another character in the novel, and it is the location of the powwow that brings the characters all together, regardless of their connections.

There There is a thoroughly modern novel that looks backwards and forwards, bringing together the stories of a range of characters and how they relate to culture, identity, and violence. It is an impressive piece of literary fiction ideal for anyone looking for novels centred around place, identity, and character, or books that tell diverse stories from people with a multifaceted sense of culture and identity.

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