Tommy Orange wins an award for “There There” — definitely worth reading

“There There” is a debut novel about twelve urban Native Americans who plan to attend a pow wow in Oakland, California. I was a bit concerned that the novel might be filled with cliches — but it’s not. The device Orange has chosen allows him to describe how people establish their identity, live with the consequences of their choices, and make families in hard times. I was incredibly impressed by this book. Many fine reviewers are more expansive and more broad in their descriptions, but all you really need to know is that it’s worth your time.

Tommy Orange wins the PEN/Hemingway Award for his debut novel

Ernest Hemingway’s grandson Sean Hemingway will present the award to Orange, the author of “There There,” at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

A cover image of the novel “There There,” by Tommy Orange, left, and a portrait of Orange.–Knopf, left and Elena Seibert via AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Novelist Tommy Orange keeps winning awards.

PEN America announced Tuesday that the author of “There There,” the most honored literary debut of 2018, has received the PEN/Hemingway award for “distinguished” new novel. Orange’s previous awards included a prize from the National Book Critics Circle for best new book and the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction. “There There” is set in the Bay Area, its story of a loosely connected community of Native Americans culminating unforgettably at the Big Oakland Pow Wow. Orange, an Oakland native, is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.

PEN/Hemingway judges Cristina Garcia, Dinaw Mengestu and Scott Simon called “There There” a “devastatingly beautiful novel, as acutely attuned to our current cultural and political condition as it is to the indelible legacy of violence that brought us here.”

For the PEN/Hemingway award, Orange receives $25,000, along with a month-long fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. Ernest Hemingway’s grandson Sean Hemingway will present the award to Orange at an April 7 ceremony at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, where the late author’s archives are stored. Previous winners include Colson Whitehead, Jhumpa Lahiri and George Saunders.

Akwaeke Emezi’s “Freshwater” and Ling Ma’s “Severance” were runners-up for this year’s award.


From the organization’s press release:

The PEN/Hemingway Award Ceremony will take place at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Sunday, April 7, from 2 to 3pm and is free and open to the public. Renowned Vietnamese-American novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen will be the keynote speaker.  Those interested in attending should call the library at (617) 514-1643 or register online at to reserve a seat.

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