There There by Tommy Orange
The title of the book comes from Gertrude Stein’s quote about Oakland, California: “There was no there there.” This is how the Native American community, the Urban Indians of Oakland, feel according to all the short stories of life in Oakland that eventually tie together during the shocking events at the Big Oakland Powwow.
One of the characters applied for and received a grant to gather the stories of Native Americans of Oakland and asks them to tell the story they want to tell. I felt that the book Orange creates are fictionalized accounts of the myriad of people who live in the city, some who have no idea what tribe they belong to and if they do what that even really means to them.
There are a lot of poignant and memorable moments in the book that have stayed with me for a couple of weeks after finishing the novel. Like Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield who as a child couldn’t figure out her name and as an adult still doesn’t know the answer. Does Bear Shield mean a shield made out of bears? A shield to protect a person from bears? Or a shield bears use to protect them from humans?
The novel asks a lot of questions, many of them serious, but there are times of humor as well, giving a varied and broad view of the native peoples in this area trying to make a home while not losing their roots.