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.
Note: There There is this year’s “On the Same Page” pick for incoming freshmen and transfers. Tommy Orange will be appearing on campus on August 26 to discuss the book.