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The Chicago Public Library this month selected Tommy Orange’s debut novel "There There" as its 2023 One Book, One Chicago pick.

One Book, One Chicago is the public library’s 22-year-old initiative to encourage Chicagoans to read the same book at the same time. Orange, an enrolled citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, is the first Native American author to have his work selected in the program. He grew up in Oakland, California, the setting of There, There.

His book, published in 2018, follows the experience of twelve Native characters all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Among them, according to Orange’s website, is “Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind; Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory; Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. They converge and collide on one fateful day at the Big Oakland Powwow, and together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.”

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 “Chicago and Oakland share some similarities, and it’s a hub for urban Native life,” Orange told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Adora Namigadde in anticipation of Chicagoans reading his work. “They’ll see themselves or an aspect of Chicago that they didn’t know about reflected. There’ll be some things that they’ll recognize about open experience. Relocation is not something that a lot of people know about. The U.S. government really made an effort to get people off of reservations and to cities in order for us to assimilate and essentially disappear and lose our citizenship as tribal members. But we ended up starting Indian centers like the one in Chicago. All these different Native organizations started up and created this community of intertribal people. I would hope that Chicagoans would be happy to learn this rich aspect of their history among the many rich aspects of Chicago history.”

Orange’s novel was named a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, a Pen/Hemingway Award Winner, a Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Winner, a National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, and a New York Times Best Book of the Year.

 

Orange described his next novel, Wandering Stars, as a sequel to There, There. It is set to be published by Penguin Random House in March 2024 and traces the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the Carlisle Industrial School for Indians.

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