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review 2019-09-26 01:03
There There....

There There: A Novel

Tommy Orange

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Knopf; First Edition (June 5, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0525520376

ISBN-13: 978-0525520375



Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton


There There was a novel assigned to the members of a local book club I belong to. The book inspired a lot of discussion at our last meeting, and the responses ran the range.


I was among the members who really liked the book, but I easily understood the reactions of others with less positive feedback. Some were confused by the structure of the book as Orange has 12 characters telling their stories interwoven together, introducing us to one of the urbanized Native Americans living in Oakland, then the next, and so on, then back around the circle again. Other readers didn't like the book as it is rather dark and depressing in many sections. I have one friend who gave up reading the novel for that reason.


Much of the club's discussion didn't focus on the book itself, but rather the situations of identity in the modern Native Americans. Many of the characters not only wrestled with both pride and deep regret about the distant past when their cultures were devastated; some of the characters know very little about their heritage but still have strong opinions about it; and others know little about their personal bloodlines including any knowledge of who their birth parents are. All these threads are pulled together at a pow-wow in Oakland where all the book's characters congregate for a variety of reasons and mixed motives. 


The cast includes Jacquie Red Feather, an alcoholic with a tortured past who meets her daughter Blue, for the first time. In turn, we meet the trio of Jacquie's  grandsons like Orvil who adds a touch of magic realism to the story by continually pulling spider legs out of a wound on his own leg.


We also meet Danny who creates plastic guns on a 3D printer, one of the characters who infuses modern technology into a realm where most everyone has mixed feelings about their Native American past. Some characters plan on robbing the pow wow and come armed with Danny's guns as plastic can slip past metal detectors. But to describe the admittedly confusing pow wow falls into the realm of spoilers, so I won't say anything more about it.


Some readers in my book club didn't care for Orange's terse, spare writing style but I thought he was trying to allow many of his characters to speak in their own voices. yes, the book is dark and can be a downer, but that's offset, in my opinion, by the education we get into the circumstances of modern, urbanized Native Americans so far removed from their more agrarian forefathers and foremothers. Few of these stories are pretty; all of them seem all too real.




This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 25, 2019:



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text 2016-06-30 20:18
June 2016 Reading Wrap Up
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan
If the Shoe Kills - Lynn Cahoon
Dressed To Kill (A Tourist Trap Mystery Book 4) - Lynn Cahoon
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine - Michael Lewis
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt - Michael Lewis
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town - Jon Krakauer
Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
Let It Shine - Alyssa B. Cole
The Giver - Lois Lowry,Ron Rifkin
Superman/Wonder Woman Volume 1: Power Couple TP by Charles Soule (2015-04-02) - Charles Soule


Courtney Milan Challenge (4/7 books in series read; 70% of challenge completed)

1. The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister #2) - 5 stars


Regency Box Set

2. His Jilted Bride (Banks Brothers Brides #3)  by Rose Gordon - currently reading


Non-Fiction Challenge (22/50, 44% of challenge completed)

3. Flash Boys by Michael Lewis - 5 stars

4. Missoula by Jon Krakaur - 5 stars

5. High Tech Trash by Elizabeth Grossman - 2 stars

6. Bad Money by Kevin Phillips - DNF

7. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis - 5 stars


Partial Reads

7. Easter 1916 - Read chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (55% completed)

8. At the Duke's Wedding (Anthology) by Various Authors (50% completed)

9. Summer Rain (Anthology) by Various Authors - DNF


LGBTQ+ Cultural and Heritage Month (US observation)

10. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel - 3 stars

11. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel - 0 stars


*Loving Day - June 12th

12. Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole - 4 stars


TBR Pile Read Down

13. The Bride Wore Blue (Brides of Bath #1) by Cheryl Bolen - DNF

14. If the Shoe Kills (Tourist Trap Mystery #3) by Lynn Cahoon - 4 stars

15. That Scandalous Summer (Rules of the Reckless #1) by Meredith Duran - 1 star

16. Summer of Dreams (From this Moment On novella) by Elizabeth Camden - 2 stars

17. That Summer in Cornwall by Ciji Ware - DNF

18. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (Summer Bingo) - 0 stars

19. The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) by Lois Lowry (Summer Bingo) - 4 stars

20. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Summer Bingo) - 4 stars

21. Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss - 4 stars

22. Dressed to Kill (Tourist Trap Mystery #4) by Lynn Cahoon - 4 stars

23. Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple by Charles Soule and Tony S. Daniel - 4 stars 



COYER Summer Vacation Challenge started June 18th.

Moonlight Reader's Summer Bingo Challenge

DoD Summer Reading Program started June 20th.


Reading Challenge: 88 out of 150 books (58% completed)



# non-fiction books: 4

# fiction books: 11

# DNF: 4

average total rating: 3.7

average non-fiction rating: 4.25 stars

average fiction rating: 3.2


Wrap Up

Getting better at hitting the DNF button. For the most part, those extra books for the bingo came in handy for bumping up the rating and giving me some enjoyable reading hours. Thanks Moonlight Reader for making me broaden my reading horizons :) !


Romance genre (save for Milan and Cole) didn't show me any love this month. I'm so tired of inaccurate historical details and NA characters in ball gowns. And as usual, contemporary romance failed me, with half of my DNFs coming from that genre.


Thankfully, I have cozy mysteries to keep turning pages. And the Apple settlement credit to my NOOK account helped keep me in cozy mysteries into the autumn months. YA and MG books helped to turn pages too. I found the other three books in The Giver Quartet on Overdrive, so I will probably work through the series next year. Not sure if I am up to seeing the movie though.


Non-fiction this month was great, just falling further behind on my goal of 50 non-fiction books for the year. I will be working through Lewis' and Krakaur's backlists next year. Biggest accomplishment this month is getting to the halfway mark on the historical account of the Easter Uprising of 1916 after not touching the book since the end of March.


The month of July includes one of my favorite holidays (Happy Independence Day to my American BL friends! Happy Getting Rid of Those Pesky Colonists Day to my British BL friends!) and two family trips (one to LEGOLAND, one to Brighton), so I am very excited to get some reading done while sunning myself on a beach or near a pool (June was straight up soggy as hell).


Happy Reading!

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review 2016-06-09 22:04
Review: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home - Alison Bechdel

I heard about this book from different Book Riot contributors. When it (and the follow up) went on sale, I picked both up. This is my first graphic novel-style memoir, but I like the subgenre. However, the story of Bechdel and her dad was uneven, so I waffled between 2.5 - 3 stars, finally rounding up.


The art is fine - blues, whites, and blacks are the only colors and the drawings are streamlined. The font is the same throughout the book, and was readable (I read it via the NOOK app on my phone). But the art really isn't the focus of the book - the relationship between her dad and Alison was.


I really enjoyed the story when Alison focused on her growing up years and her college years. They were the most natural voiced part of the story. Unfortunately, Bechdel decided to add heaping mounds of how Proust, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and other (this reader's opinion) insufferable writers described or fit in with her family's dynamics. The belly buttoning gazing went on for pages. I can't stand literature analysis and breaking down every sentence, metaphor, or simile to find the symbolism of it all - this is why I majored in History and not Literature. The story also jumps around time-wise; we get scenes from her childhood in the 70s, flash forward to her dad's death, go back in time to her college years, back to childhood, etc.


I had two issues with the story: 1) the use of slurs and 2) the possible bi-erasure. With the first issue, Bechdel uses the words "pansy" and "sissy" in describing her father, even when she may have had inklings that she was queer herself. I felt she could have used other words to describe the very real situation/topic (gender norms, gender fluidity, and self-expression) that I felt was important to the story and to the larger picture of queerness identity. The second issue was Bechdel trying to pigeonhole her father as gay to connect herself and him, rather than entertaining the idea her father was bisexual. That rankled a lot more than the first issue. It seemed her gayness was somewhat validated/justified if he was squarely gay. I really enjoyed learning about her queer journey (not just lesbianism, but gender self-expression as a more butch/less feminate), and to see/read her label her father in very strict terms was a bit jarring.


I think Bechdel has an unique voice and style and I am glad I have the follow up book ready to go; but a lot less trying to tie herself/family/life to the cannons of literature would have made this book more enjoyable for me.


3 stars. Summer Bingo square "Graphic Novel or Comic".

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review 2014-07-22 16:18
My Rotary Journey by Woodrow "Wooj" Byun

Who knew that something as seemingly small as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship could change so many people’s lives so dramatically? Woodrow “Wooj” Byun was the recipient of that award and it set him on a path that would change not only his life drastically, but the lives of so many people around him


My Rotary Journey is the powerful story of Byun’s life and how it was changed and shaped by the Rotary Association. Adopting the Rotary’s motto of “service above self,” Byun has touched so many other people’s lives by donating so much of his time and talents to help make the world a better place. He’s tutored elderly immigrants so they could pass the US citizenship test, wrote books to help Koreans understand the US legal system and serves as president of the Rotary Club in Edina, Minnesota. Byun shares his inspiring stories in this book in a witty and heartfelt way and aims to inspire a new generations of Rotarians. 

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review 2013-09-22 00:00
Three Times A Corpse (World Cultural Her... Three Times A Corpse (World Cultural Heritage Library) - Kenneth Robeson A fun entry into the Doc Savage pulp series, this is another from the last part of the illustrious adventurer's published career, in which he was portrayed as a more normal, more fallible man. That's well and good, but unfortunately the author also was a bit fallible, pulling together all the plot points at the end a little too quickly and even forgetting to address the situation of the lone female character, a high-stakes gambler who might've made a good occasional foil/sidekick if that sort of thing would've been allowed back in the forties. Still, it was an enjoyable read, just not on a par with the best Doc Savage adventures.
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