Year 14, Book 16

16. There, There by Tommy Orange

This book is a series of interconnected character stories about Native Americans who are on their way to a big Powwow in Oakland. It uses these characters to look at the history of American Indians and tell the stories of urban Native Americans that is rarely seen in the stereotypes of Indian reservations. I was compelled by the characters’ stories, but this book lost me in its sort of short story like structure. Although it’s not really a book of short stories each character is fairly siloed in his or her own chapter(s) until the very end at the Powwow where there is some overlap. Characters get no more than two chapters if they even get that, which very much resulted in what I don’t like about short stories which is that everything feels stunted. I feel like there was a much broader to story to hear about each character and I resented only getting a little piece of each one. Obviously that’s by design, but it’s not a structure I personally enjoy. I also felt that way about the ending of the book itself which just made everything feel like it was cut short. I also wish I had some sort of diagram that showed how all the characters were related to each other because I had a hard time keeping track since they would show up and then get a mention many chapters later in someone else’s story and I’d have a hard time remembering who they were. It is a well written book with interesting characters that tells a story that I haven’t heard before. I give it a 7 out of 10.

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