Here are some questions to consider when reading Tommy Orange's There There.

1. The prologue provides a historical overview of how Native populations were systematically stripped of their identity, rights, land, etc. by colonialist forces in America. How does the prologue set the tone for the reader? Discuss the use of the Indian head as iconography. How does this relate to the erasure of Native identity in American culture?

2.  "Getting us to cities was supposed to be the final, necessary step in our assimilation, absorption, erasure, the completion of a five-hundred-year-old genocidal campaign. But the city made us new, and we made it ours."

Discuss the development of the “Urban Indian” identity and ownership of that label. How does it relate to the push for assimilation by the United States government? How do the characters navigate this modern form of identity alongside their ancestral roots?

3. Consider the following statement from page 9: “We stayed because the city sounds like a war, and you can’t leave a war once you’ve been, you can only keep it at bay.” In what ways does the historical precedent for violent removal of Native populations filter into the modern era? How does violence—both internal and external—appear throughout the narrative? How has violent removal of Native populations contributed to contemporary white privilege?

4. On page 7, Orange states: “We’ve been defined by everyone else and continue to be slandered despite easy-to-look-up-on-the-internet facts about the realities of our histories and current state as a people.” Discuss this statement in relation to how Native populations have been defined in popular culture. How do the characters resist the simplification and flattening of their cultural identity? Relate the idea of preserving cultural identity to Dene Oxendene’s storytelling mission.

5. The occupation of Alcatraz is often romanticized in history, but for many, the reality was very stressful and traumatic. Describe the resettlement efforts at Alcatraz. What were the goals for inhabiting this land? What vision did Opal and Jacquie’s mother have for her family in moving to Alcatraz? What were the realities they experienced? For background, take a look at the video "We Hold the Rock" about the occupation of Alcatraz.

6. On page 58, Opal’s mother tells her that she needs to honor her people “by living right, by telling our stories. [That] the world was made of stories, nothing else, and stories about stories.” How does this emphasis on storytelling function throughout There There? Consider the relationship between storytelling and power. How does storytelling allow for diverse narratives to emerge? What is the relationship between storytelling and historical memory?

7. On page 77, Edwin Black asserts, “The problem with Indigenous art in general is that it’s stuck in the past.” How does the tension between modernity and tradition emerge throughout the narrative? Which characters seek to find a balance between honoring the past and looking toward the future? When is the attempt to do so successful?

8. How is the city of Oakland characterized in the novel? How does the city’s gentrification affect the novel’s characters and their attitudes toward home and stability?

9. Discuss the Interlude that occurs on pages 134–41. What is the importance of this section? How does it provide key contextual information for the Big Oakland PowWow that occurs at the end of the novel? What is the author trying to say about historical violence, mass shootings and America's relationship with firearms in general?

10. Examine the use of unchecked technology. i.e. 3D printing guns, drones, internet addiction, social media, etc. How does this tie into urban Native identity? How does this tie into larger societal issues?

Bonus Questions: What was the most surprising element of the novel to you? What was its moment of greatest impact?

Each year the Portland Book Festival, presented by the Bank of America, brings thousands of readers to the Southwest Park Blocks for a day-long celebration of all things reading. Needless to say, we're big fans.

MK Reed's Wild Weather

To call attention to any one author inevitably leaves out a stellar line-up - who doesn't want to see Malcolm Gladwell and Rainbow Rowell? But there's so many quality events to choose from, so here are top picks.

Would it be too self-centered to say that we're so looking forward to seeing our library moderators in action? Elleona Budd, Natasha Forrester CampbellLanel JacksonEbonee Bell, Eduardo Arizaga and Alicia Tate will be moderating talks on everything from science comics to dark magic in fantasy.

We're looking forward to hearing from Saeed Jones about his new memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives. David Treuer's Heartbeat of Wounded Knee has made it to the top of many of our reading lists.  Mira Jacobs's graphic memoir Good Talk, about interracial families made it to the top of many library staff lists. And we'd like to hear how cartoonist and animator Graham Annable expresses his love for slots and hockey, when he isn't writing. Romance readers among us have been eagerly awaiting more from Jasmine Guillory, “the queen of contemporary romance” (OprahMag.com). Our teen librarians have long been fans of Gabby Rivera's Juliet Takes a Breath. We're looking forward to the pop-up events, among them Theodore Van Alst reading from his linked short stories, Sacred Smokes. 

We're also excited to hear home town heroes, Renée Watson, Carson Ellis, Mitchell S. Jackson, ... drat! Why did we limit ourselves to only 10? 

And that doesn't even take into account Friday night's Lit Crawl -- the Poetry Karaoke looks especially intriguing.

Take a look at the festival event site and go hang out with book lovers all day long. It's the best time, and we hope to see you there.

Across the globe, many individuals and organizations are contending with complex questions of how to preserve and protect our natural world.  The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts is one such organization. 

A land trust is a nonprofit that works with individuals and communities to conserve land. Explore this list, made in collaboration with COLT, that includes nonfiction, poetry, novels and children's books that address questions of conservation and that celebrate Oregon's natural environment.

Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. The event spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. You can learn more about books that have been challenged or banned from the American Library Association's Banned and Challenged Books site, hosted by ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

This year, Multnomah County Library will celebrate the freedom to read with displays at libraries and with Drag Queen Banned Books Bingo, featuring Poison Waters. In the meantime, explore some of the titles that have been the object of challenges over the years.

Katie Grindeland is the author of The Gifts We Keep, a selection from The Library Writers Project, which highlights local self-published authors. In an innovative partnership, Ooligan Press worked with the library to publish this novel about an Oregon family struggling with past tragedy while caring for a Native Alaskan girl with sorrows of her own.

Reading with friends? Start the conversation with this book summary and discussion guide.

Why did you want to tell this particular story?

I have always been a very character-driven writer, so I was excited at the prospect of diving into first-person emotional exploration with a somewhat diverse group of people. It was really important to me to try and give voice to their internal experience since we don’t always have a platform for that in our put-together grown-up lives. Big feelings, authenticity, connection, these were pillars for me. Not just as words on a page, but as an open-handed gesture to the reader’s experience as well. If someone reads this story and feels emotionally seen or included, I would consider that my biggest success.

Who or what inspires you, writing wise? Who inspires you in your life?

I am always inspired by those really good writers who make you stop in your tracks, by virtue of how purely they can weave a phrase or present an idea. The kind where I have to put the book down to stare at nothing and just think for a few minutes. Yann Martel and Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Safran Foer and Barbara Kingsolver. But I also really love the writer who just wants to borrow your ear for a minute to tell a cool story they know. Lynda Barry and Stephen King and Cheryl Strayed and Diane Ackerman. These and so many more. Outside of writing, hard workers inspire me. Nose-to-the-grindstoners inspire me. Bad-at-something-but-trying-it-anyway inspires me. I find a lot of bravery in authenticity. And kindness. Kind-hearted people are secret super heroes and they don’t even know it. That inspires me.

Can you recommend a book you've recently enjoyed?

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It undid me, in all the best ways. Beautiful, meaningful, incandescent. I read much of this by headlamp on a solo camping trip near The Dalles, listening to trains run by in the dark, simply because I couldn’t put it down. I also love “S”, by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams. It's a novel within a novel, filled with miscellanies that fall out of the book into your lap if you aren’t careful, postcards, notes, photos -- all of which may or may not be clues to unraveling the story. Plus, if you’re anything like me, it will have you spouting about the Ship of Theseus paradox to friends and family, whose reception may be lukewarm in comparison to your enthusiasm for the idea!

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