Tommy Orange’s novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them 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. 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.
Note: The blurb describes it as a novel, but I have seen it also described as a novel-in-stories or linked short story collection, including amongst its reviews (and I think the blurb certainly furthers that impression).
More about this collection
Author Tommy Orange’s Twitter profile
Video interview with the author from Miami Book Fair – courtesy of PBS
Interview with the author – courtesy of The Guardian
The following quote from the interview also emphasizes (for me) that this is a novel-in-stories / linked short story collection:
[Tommy Orange]: “I really liked what a chorus of voices could do. I like, within a novel, to jump around and see how the different voices connect. It gives the reader a lot to do. And when the reader gets the connection, something really special happens: like a clicking in place. It gives it a kind of propulsion and makes it a really active reading experience.
“We are the memories we don’t remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us.”– from There There by Tommy Orange