There There

There There by Tommy Orange

While waiting for a Lyft in a random book store in Seattle, this book – with its title and cover – caught my attention. The next weekend, I went to Grand Canyon and Zion. Besides the scenery, the most amazing part of the trip was the timezones. We kept flipping back and forth between different timezones, and it got to a point where we couldn’t tell what time it was anymore. It also didn’t help that Yelp and Google Maps gave us conflicting information. It turns out that most of Arizona observes Mountain Standard Time, but Navajo Nation, which covers parts of AZ, UT, and NM, observes Mountain Daylight Time, putting it an hour ahead. This was fascinating and made me realize I haven’t really studied anything related to Native Americans since middle school. This topic only really comes up in the context of casinoes. It’s a shame, so it’s time to fix it.

1) “There was an Indian head, the head of an Indian, the drawing of the head of a headdressed, long-haired Indian depicted, drawn by an unknown artist in 1939, broadcast until the late 1970s to American TVs everywhere after all the shows ran out. It’s called the Indian Head test pattern.”

I’m too young to have seen this firsthand. The imagery is so telling – an Indian head above what looks like a bullseye.

2) “An apple is red on the outside and white on the inside.”

Native American to Asian American : apple to banana

3) “Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere and nowhere.”

The hardhitting commentary in the prologue rains hard on the Thanksgiving parade.

4) “The Drome taught me to look past the first look people give you, find the other one, right behind it. All you gotta do is wait a second longer than you normally do and you can catch it, you can see what they got in mind back there.”

It’s not directly related, but this reminded me of how my immediate reaction when a stranger talks to me on the street is to guard and walk away. That’s sad.

5) “‘We’re going over to where they built that prison. Gonna start from the inside of the cell, which is where we are now, Indian people, that’s where they got us, even though they don’t make it seem like they got us there. We’re gonna work our way out from the inside with a spoon.'” – Jacquie’s mom

I didn’t know about the Indian occupation of Alcatraz. Did I not pay attention during the tour?

6) “‘Roosevelt said, ‘I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of tenth.”” – Two Shoes the bear

I had to fact check this. It’s real news. Puts our current events in perspective.

7) “It stayed as my profile pic until recently, because a few months, even a year, was fine, not abnormal, but after four years it was the socially unacceptable kind of sad.”

A lot of my friends still have grad or college pics as profile pics. It doesn’t seem weird at all. If anything, changing profile pic is weird.

8) “There’s something wrong about all of it. Something about the ever-present phone glow on their faces, or the too-fast way they tap their phones, their gender-fluid fashion choices, their hyper-PC gentle way of being while lacking all social graces and old-world manners and politeness.”

Millenials are the worst.

9) “‘Kids are jumping out the windows of burning buildings, falling to their deaths. And we think the problem is that they’re jumping.'” – Jacquie

Core issues are hard to solve, so a lot of solutions address the symptoms of the real issues and claim victory. I don’t have a great answer, but it seems to be a recurring theme for humanity. Maybe there is just no such thing as the root cause.

10) “I brought home outdated racist insults from school like it was the 1950s. All Mexican slurs, of course, since people where I grew up don’t know Natives still exist. That’s how much those Oakland hills separate us from Oakland. Those hills bend time.” 

Why are racial slurs so contagious? Why is it so easy to pick up? Seems like the cost of using them is too low.

I typically enjoy multi-threaded stories with different characters coming together. There There is a perfect example, but it was difficult to keep track of who was who. There were too many characters, and they weren’t distinct enough – most struggled from drug use and lack of family stability. Also, chapters spanned generations and switched amongst first, second, and third person voices. Despite the constant context switches, it was still a great book. I learned a lot about Native American contemporary history and culture.

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