There There is the story of urban Native Americans, whose lives come together at a massive Powwow at the Oakland Coliseum.

There There is not a cheerful tale and involves a lot of characters. Tony Loneman is a physically disfigured 21 year old whose appearance and mental capacity were adversely affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. He makes a living selling drugs.

Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield and her half-sister, Jacqui Red Feather, were taken by their mother to live at Alcatraz for the occupation. Jacqui was raped and their mother informed them that she was dying of cancer, leaving them to live with an unrelated man. You can guess how that went.

Dene Oxendene receives a grant to film interviews with Native Americans living in Oakland, giving each person the opportunity to tell his or her story. “I want to bring something new to the vision of the Native experience as it’s seen on the screen. We haven’t seen the Urban Indian story.” The interviews are sort of the story in the story. When we first meet Dene he is listening to Radio Head’s “There There”. (Just ‘cause you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there”). He also reflects on Gertrude Stein’s description of Oakland, that there is no there there. “For Native people in this country, all over America, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there.”

Octavio Gomez is a drug dealer. It is his idea to rob the powwow of the prize money. There are many shady characters who revolve around Octavio.

There are lots of other characters too, all engaged in some way around the powwow. The story is brilliantly conceived, bringing numerous seemingly unrelated people together, and describing differing cultures, struggles and identities. As the powwow arrives and the attempted theft begins, the chapters become short and relay a sense of urgency to the reader, so that you feel like you are part of the story.

The book made me sad and ashamed. This is a book we should all read to remind us about how our country evolved and the continuing isolation and prejudice the original founders of this country continue to experience. You can reserve this book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.