There There is a gripping debut novel by Tommy Orange. Orange tells the stories of twelve different “Urban Indians,” all at least in part Native American, as they travel to and interact at “The Big Oakland Powwow.” Orange is himself a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma; he uses his characters’ stories to examine both the dark corners of Native American history and the “messy and relatable complexity” of contemporary Indian life.
Each of the characters is hoping to achieve something different at the powwow. Some of the characters want to dance and some want to observe; one of the characters is searching for a family member; and some of the characters have come to take advantage of others. All of them have a story to tell, but most are confused about how to tell that story. The characters are wrestling with identity, history, and status in the urban setting of Oakland, California.
I was surprised by how much I could relate to all the characters, even though their struggles are very different from my own. Tommy Orange was able to weave twelve independent stories into a cohesive whole that encompasses the history of native Americans but also reveals the issues and problems that they face in their modern day lives. There, There is an instant classic.
Review by Katy Dodge, Head of Children’s Services.
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