When we began our work on the 2022 issue of The Broken Plate, we set out with the goal of examining and understanding the fragility and complexity of the human condition. We were allowed the opportunity to glimpse into the stories of others, to walk around in their minds and look at the world from behind their eyes. We had the chance to examine our own fragility and privilege in the process. Outside of my work on this issue, I challenged myself to continue this work and to push myself to expand my own understanding of voices and stories unlike my own. It was through this exploration I found There, There by Tommy Orange.
There, There is a novel centered around the Native experience in today’s America. It relays stories of Native people bearing the scraps of the culture and cultural identity robbed from them and the struggles they face today as a residual impact of centuries of erasure, abuse, and forced assimilation. The story is structured in several short segments which follow several different narrators. Throughout the novel Orange weaves together this web of characters and their struggles, revealing how they are intertwined and how their lives and struggles often overlap and coincide. Many of these characters come from the same family as well, which relays the impact of residual generational struggle within the Native community.
There, There is an important and rare piece of writing that reflects the goals of our journal very well. It represents the voice of a people often excluded from mainstream literature whose experience has been actively erased throughout the course of history. The novel works to illuminate and uplift Native people through a loving and honest telling of their experience. It does not shy away from the realities of the hardships these characters face, nor does it resolve blame for these characters’ actions in critical moments. It gives the reader a glimpse into the entirety of their lives, bringing the audience to love and understand each character as they unfold. It proudly and unapologetically exposes the reader to the entirety of the Native experience through a cast of beautifully and lovingly crafted characters and is a marvel of writing that I believe anyone could appreciate.
I should note that Orange reflects several grave issues facing the community throughout the novel. Some of the issues and topics covered within the novel have the potential to be triggering for readers and are either depicted directly or referenced heavily. I feel that is an important disclaimer to anyone interested in picking up this novel.