Saturday, January 4th @ 4PM
Book Lovers is a casual book club that meets monthly to discuss contemporary fiction or nonfiction. To RSVP, participate in discussions, or vote for future titles online, please visit our meetup page: www.meetup.com/flyleafbooklovers/
Chosen by Duke University as this year's Common Experience summer reading book, this is a first novel by Tommy Orange, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma. The book opens with a fierce, angry, funny and thoughtful essay by the author highlighting some of the violence that indigenous people have endured and how it has been smoothed over in our retelling.
The story follows 12 Native American characters living in the area of Oakland, California as they struggle with a wide array of challenges ranging from depression and alcoholism, to unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome, and the challenges of living with an ethnic identity of being "ambiguously nonwhite." Each character is given complexity. Even though the theme of addiction runs throughout, Orange refuses to conflate being Native American with being an addict. Instead he describes the sorrow that drives each character to his/her individual obsession.
The title is a reference to Gertrude Stein's description of her attempt to return to her childhood home in Oakland only to find that the rural Oakland she remembered was gone; she says, "There is no there there." Orange writes that for Native people, cities and towns like Oakland represent "buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory."
The book was a finalist for the 019 Pulitzer prize and won a Gold Medal for First fiction from the California book Awards. Reviews were highly positive. One said the book "should probably be on reading lists for every creative writing program in the country."