“This was what it sounded like to make it through these hundreds of American years, to sing through them. This was the sound of pain forgetting itself in song.”
This month’s book is one some of you have most likely already read. It has won multiple awards and has been displayed in many local bookshops over the past few years. It has been recommended by friends and has popped up while scrolling through Instagram, but it took me until this year to finally pick it up. So, if you’re like me and are a bit late to the party, I hope this review can convince you to take the plunge and break open this spectacular novel.
There There by Tommy Orange is an exploration of the “urban Indian” experience.
The book follows a cast of Indigenous Americans from Oakland, jumping perspectives with every chapter. Much like some of our favorite holiday movies, the characters’ lives weave together throughout the story, entangling and glancing off one another.
In 21st-century America, these characters struggle with identifying as authentic Indians, often feeling as though they are playing a part and lack the knowledge or experience to consider themselves truly part of the culture.
The majority of There There is spent leading up to a powwow at the Oakland Coliseum.
Each character has a reason for attending this event; some are less harmless than others. One group of characters is planning a robbery, intending to take prize money with the help of 3-D printed guns. Knowing this plan is in the works increases the tension felt as the powwow approaches. As readers, we know that something will go terribly wrong at this event, where most characters hope to finally feel connected to their heritage.
Orange’s elegant writing and ability to create unique narrative styles for each character results in an almost flawless novel. This short and powerful book explores the meaning of identity in a world both old and new. You’ll be taken to some familiar Bay Area locations and gain a deeper understanding of the modern Indigenous American experience. If you’ve yet to read There There, I highly recommend you pick it up. And if you have already read it, you might consider adding it to your holiday gift list for friends and family.
Please check the content warnings before diving into There There.
Pumpkin spice mocktail
- One Scoop Pumpkin Puree
- Pumpkin Spice (this is a mixture of spices you most likely have in your cabinet)
- Ginger Beer
- Lime Juice
- Place one large scoop of pumpkin puree into your favorite, festive mug.
- Add a few dashes of pumpkin spice (my preference is four), and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- Fill the mug with ice and top with Ginger beer.
- Use a mixing spoon to gently stir the mocktail.
- Garnish with a lime slice.