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addabook - There There
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There There
A novel
Tommy Orange
read on August 20, 2019

Reading this book was interesting insofar as it made me really realize how little I empathize with Native Americans, and particularly how little I really think about the current condition of Native Americans and their cultural preservation as apart from the condition and overall well being of Americans as a whole. That is, I more frequently think about Natives in a strictly historical context - something that happened exclusively in the past - not something that is happening today.

There There doesn't explicitly focus on historical injustices - it highlights the stories of some 20-or-so Native Americans through an interconnected narrative, but it is (naturally) impossible to present their lives without seeing the consequences our history has wrought. I actually enjoyed the few interludes best, where the author speaks directly, rather through the narrative of the characters.

When we go to tell our stories, people think we want it to have gone different. People want to say things like "sore losers" and "move on already," "quit playing the blame game." But is it a game? Only those who have lost as much as we have see the particularly nasty slice of smile on someone who thinks they're winning when they say "Get over it." This is the thing: If you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that's how you know you're on board the ship that serves hors d'oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning, or clinging to little inflatable rafts that they have to take turns keeping inflated, people short of breath, who've never even heard of the words hors d'oeuvres or fluff.

Author Bio:

Tommy Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California.