There’s a novel I’ve been reading this week called There There by Tommy Orange. It’s the debut novel by this author and it just came out this year. I’ve been on the wait list for it at the library I use for over a month before I finally got my hands on it, and technically, it happened before I even got off the wait list. After I picked up another book I had on hold, I saw it on one of the display shelves as I was heading out, and was quick to pick it up. Why wait around any longer than I already have when it was right there in front of you?
Apart from the fact that it’s a new novel, as far as the story itself, I can see why the wait list is about a mile long. It follows several characters – all of whom are Native American – who’re all overcoming difficult experiences in their lives, as they prepare to come together for a powwow in Oakland.
That last detail – its setting in Oakland – can more or less hit home for me. While not from Oakland, I live in the Bay Area, and so hearing such descriptions about places like the Oakland Coliseum and the several BART stations located throughout the city bring to mind visuals of exactly how they appear in real life. It’s interesting reading all this, all the while through the perspectives of different people, whose one shared commonality is that they are all Native American. That’s an experience that I’m not at all familiar with, but I’m actively learning about through such as novel as this.
There’s a constant push for more diversity in storytelling of all types nowadays, and yet it’s only recently where I’m getting my hands on books written by and about Native Americans. While my main focus these last six years has been about enhancing and engaging in stories coming out of the Asian American community, it’s refreshing to, every now and then, step outside and explore books from other communities.
I’m halfway through the novel now, and I look forward to reading the rest. Sometimes, all it takes is reading a novel as moving as this one to get you to learn about and understand other people’s experiences – especially in familiar places.
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