World renowned author, Tommy Orange, visits Missoula

Maggie Vann, Reporter

The award winning author of There There, Tommy Orange, visited Missoula, Montana on October 30th, 2019. His book is integrated into the curriculum for sophomores in high school in Missoula, along with at the University of Montana, and has been an inspiration to Native Americans and teens all over the world. 

Orange grew up in Oakland, California, is enrolled in the Cheyenne tribe, and worked at a health clinic; until he decided that he wanted to be a teacher. Although his book, There There, affected the lives of Native Americans that read it, Orange didn’t even know if his book would be published. He just wanted to become more well-known, so that his dream for a teaching career would come true. On June 5th, 2018 his book was published, and it changed the lives of people all over the world

Orange’s book is a story about what it means to have your whole life taken away from you, while constantly wondering where you belong. Gertrude Stein, an American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector said, “There is no there, there.” This quote struck Orange and he said that the characters in his book are looking for a “there, there”, or belonging. The characters in his book all have separate stories about their lives, and although none of the characters are real people, they are based off of very real issues in the Native American daily life. The separate stories for each character eventually converge and they each bring new meaning to the book. 

The book discusses how traditions change. While many people associate tradition with something that stays the same, Orange said, “Part of tradition is adaptation.” He wants people to be aware that tradition is constantly changing, while keeping things that matter the most close. He also said, “People change, so can tradition.” his story brings out many underlying messages about life. 

Orange said that it’s hard for Native Americans today for many reasons. Many times, they live on reservations which, in a way, exclude them from the “real” world. However, Orange also said that these reservations tie Native Americans to larger cities. Another struggle that Native Americans experience is exposure to screenplay because it’s not diversified. They aren’t played on the screen, but when they are, they are often discriminated against. He said that it is hard for people of color because black people are visible so they often get shot, while Native Americans seem to fade into the background. 

There There is a book that is really an eye opener for people all over the world. His talks are a great way for people to see what life is like for people of color and the struggles of Native Americans. Orange even donated 20% of the money earned from selling his books in Missoula to Native American education.