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Books Editorial

therethere.jpg There There

Tommy Orange, Knopf Publishing

Tommy Orange’s debut novel is a multi-generational fresco examining the modern day Native American experience. It features the voices of 12 different characters who are all looking forward to the Big Oakland Powwow - some for more nefarious reasons than others. This gathering, held at a local sports stadium, features much dressing up, music and more, but before we get there Orange gives us a glimpse into the lives of this disparate diaspora that features the likes of Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, who is bringing up her nephews (including Orvil, who has taught himself traditional dance through watching YouTube videos), and Dene Oxendene, who wants to film participants telling their stories for a project. It’s a wildly entertaining and illuminating account featuring the recurring motif of characters studying their own reflection, the author – juggling the different voices with aplomb – making explicit his intentions of turning a looking glass on an often marginalised community. “What are we?” someone asks near the novel’s climax and There Theregoes someway to answering that question better than most.