Despite the fact that I am “the book girl” and a literal librarian, I do not often join book clubs. I have a varied reading interest, I read much faster than most people, and frankly, sometimes book clubs take themselves too seriously and try to have “intellectual” discussions about “important” books that end up being no fun at all. But, I recently joined a DAR chapter here in DC that had a book club, and I was intrigued. In November, in honor of Native American Heritage Month and a local visit from the author, we read There There by Tommy Orange. Wow, was I blown away.
I knew pretty much nothing about There There other than people raved about it in the book community and it was about the Native experience. I went in with a pretty open mind but healthy skepticism because, like I said, book club. Told in alternating POVs with an excellent array of writing styles, There There is the story of I believe twelve characters coming to and talking about the Big Oakland Powwow. There, everything will collide.
This is very much an “urban native” story which is explored in the story as well. Each character has a full-fledged backstory and a unique voice structure in their chapters, and I love a multi-POV book, so I was sold. Plus, the stories are so fascinating. There are people coming to gripes with their culture, characters overcoming addiction and abuse, guys planning crimes and grandmothers raising children, and it all intersects in a unique way. I love connections slowly being revealed in a story–two characters that don’t seem related suddenly connecting, having this unseen connection come to the forefront. There There does this expertly.
I cannot rave about this book enough, and I hope to reread it in a few years to see what I missed the first time through. The story is great, it’s excellent representation of the varied urban Native experience, and the writing is spectacular. I was running through the final pages, unable to put the book down until I knew what was going to happen. A five star read for me!
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