“Listen, baby, it makes me happy you want to know, but learning about your heritage is a privilege. A privilege we don’t have. And anyway, anything you hear from me about your heritage doesn’t not make you more or less Indian. More or less a real Indian. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what being an Indian means. Too many of us died to get just a little bit of us here, right now, right in this kitchen. You, me. Every part of our people that made it is precious. You’re Indian because you’re Indian because you’re Indian.”
A debut novel that is important, powerful, and unapologetic. I was caught up in this story from the very beginning. Tommy Orange explores what it means to be a Native American in the United States today – after the brutal overtaking of their lands, livelihood, and tradition. Set in Oakland, California, Orange follows several (12, maybe?) characters all converging at the stadium for a powwow competition. As each character is introduced, the reader learns about their story and, in the greater scheme, how the history of the Native Americans has forced them into this city life they didn’t chose. He makes the case that the experiences of their ancestors has been carried on through their blood – that the past’s culture is part of the current’s culture – and that the Indians today are carrying the hurt, burden, and unfairness from all those years ago when the Indians were forcibly removed from their land, culture, beliefs, and way of life. The unfairness is still being felt and experienced today, in Oakland.
It’s a moving tribute to the plight of the Native American. It’s important reading for all of us. And just like the plight of African Americans to heal the wounds of the past, this book reminds us that there are other wounds still festering that also need healing and attention.
The only reason this book didn’t earn a full 5 stars from me is because the amount of characters and how they eventually become intertwined was a bit confusing. I had read from a previous review to take notes of who the people were, and even with that, I found myself having to refer to it a lot which somewhat interrupted the flow of the book for me.
Overall, I enjoyed the writing and think this will be a highly talked about book!
Thank you, Chris, for the selection, which I received through my #ShelfSubscription from The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. It’s one of my favorite subscriptions…you should check it out.