As part of Elon University 2022-23 speaker seriesTommy Orange, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated fiction book “There There,” gave a commemorative address to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the McCrary Theater on January 10.
Tuesday’s lecture followed the theme of “Let Freedom Reign,” celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Orange answered questions about his book and talked about related issues in his community.
“There There” follows the lives of 12 urban Native Americans living in modern-day Oakland, California, using storytelling and historical anecdotes to explore Native American identity and generational trauma. Explore.
Orange answered questions from moderators Diandra Little (Vice Chancellor for Teacher Development and Professor of English) and Wendy Scott (Vice Chancellor for Academic Success and Professor of Law).
After receiving land grants from members of the Occaneechi-Saponi Indian tribe, Orange, Little, and Scott touched on social topics and themes presented in the book. But before diving into the subject, Orange spoke about the importance of storytelling itself.
“The word story is one of those ubiquitous words that starts to lose its meaning when overused,” says Orange. “The method I use [story] In this context you read, it has a little more to do with the history we were unable to tell our own story.
Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, shared his thoughts on racism and its place in the United States, especially after telling his own story that his son had brought home a pamphlet about pilgrims. elaborated on how they chose to frame racism aswe
“The idea that you are correcting racism … that it is damaging to people is really the wrong view of what it does. …why you want to be part of that story is it?” said Orange
In terms of the ideas he illustrates, Orange offers a way for his books to demonstrate the power of the city’s Indigenous communities, along with the power literature can bring to life to social issues.
“I think it’s the little joys that fill every life — the way we laugh together, the food we eat, the way we dance — I think there are a lot of little ways that don’t show up on paper. Of the bigger tragedy,” said Orange. . “I think literature can capture those little moments.”
Orange also uses literature as a platform to spread awareness of the lack of awareness of contemporary indigenous struggles, such as gender and racial identity.
“I think so [being biracial] What is represented in literature is not as complete as it should be,” said Orange. “I think for native people, there’s a whole different set of qualifications for what it means to be native.”
Orange hinted at a new project he’s working on. One is a sequel to “There There” and the other of him is a prequel. Orange said the prequel will focus more on history, following native families and tribes that lead to the characters in “There There”.