Emphasizing Stories by Indigenous Writers: Background information when reading There There

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There There

by Tommy Orange

There There by Tommy Orange X
There There by Tommy Orange
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 304 pages

    May 2019, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner
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About this Book

Emphasizing Stories by Indigenous Writers

This article relates to There There

Print Review

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 5.2 million Native Americans currently live within the United States. But their stories are largely ignored by mainstream literature. In a world where literature is dominated by white male-driven narratives, it is even more important that we popularize and appreciate indigenous stories. I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight two of my favorite Native American authors.

Louise ErdrichLouise Erdrich's debut novel, Love Medicine was published in 1984. She quickly made a place for herself as one of America's great contemporary authors, but is most notable for her detailed and thoughtful portrayals of Native American communities throughout the United States. Part of the Chippewa tribe, Erdrich recognized that a void needed to be filled when it came to shining a spotlight on indigenous stories, and is now one of the most widely-read Native American authors writing today, with over twenty published novels. I suggest beginning your tour of Erdrich's bibliography with her 2012 release and National Book Award winner, The Round House. This novel follows Geraldine Coutts, her husband, Bazil, and their son, Joe, in the aftermath of Geraldine's assault, and subsequent depression. Angered by the slow-moving court system, Joe and his friends decide to take matters into their own hands, and get answers on their own terms.

Leslie Marmon SilkoLeslie Marmon Silko is a Laguna Pueblo writer and one of the most important figures in the "Native American Renaissance," a period of time in the late 1960s in which there was a heavily increased production of works by Native American authors. Silko first came onto the literary scene with her 1969 short story, "The Man to Send Rain Clouds," which was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Discovery Grant. Silko's work primarily revolves around her tribe, the Laguna Pueblo people, and is largely set in New Mexico, the area to which that tribe is indigenous. Silko broke down boundaries in the literary world, providing a look into a perspective that had been disregarded for centuries. I recommend reading Silko's first published novel, Ceremony (1977.) This story follows Tayo, a World War II veteran returning to his home on the Laguna reservation. Haunted by memories of the war, Tayo must find a way past the trauma and learn to cope in his world.

Included below are a few other Native-American authors I highly recommend checking out, as well as where you can find them online.

Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation, is the author of seven books of poetry and the memoir Crazy Brave; she has also released five music CDs.

Linda Hogan, a member of the Chickasaw Nation through her father's line, is an internationally recognized public reader; speaker; and writer of poetry, fiction and essays. She is perhaps best known as the author of People of the Whale.

Under the name William Least Heat-Moon (reflecting his Osage ancestry), historian and travel writer William Trogdon is the author of many works including River Horse, Columbus in the Americas, Road to Quoz; and two best-selling classics, Blue Highways and PrairyErth.

Terese Marie Mailhot is from the Seabird Island Band (a First Nations band located in British Columbia); she is a writer, speaker and the author of the memoir Heart Berries.

David Treur is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the author of four novels and two books of nonfiction including The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present.

Louise Erdrich courtesy of kcrw.com
Leslie Marmon Silko courtesy of lannon.org

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Meara Conner

This "beyond the book article" relates to There There. It originally ran in June 2018 and has been updated for the May 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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