Tommy Orange

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Tommy Orange
A portrait of Tommy Orange, wearing a hat, grey t-shirt. He is smiling towards the camera
Orange in 2018 in Texas
Born (1982-01-19) January 19, 1982 (age 42)
Oakland, California, U.S.
EducationInstitute of American Indian Arts (BS, MFA)

Tommy Orange (born January 19, 1982) is an American novelist and writer from Oakland, California. His first book, There There (2018), was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize[1] and received the 2019 American Book Award.[2]

Orange is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He earned a master's degree in fine arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He was born and raised in the Dimond District[3] Oakland, California, and resides in Oakland, California, with his wife, Kateri, and his son, Felix.[4]

Early life[edit]

Orange was born in Oakland, California on January 19, 1982. From age 14 to 24, Orange played roller hockey on a national level. He began playing music at the age of 18. Orange's father was a Native American ceremony leader, while his mother converted for a time to Christianity.[5] After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science in sound arts, Orange worked at Gray Wolf Books, a bookstore in San Leandro, where he developed a passion for reading and thus began writing.[6]


Orange obtained a bachelor's in audio engineering and later a Master of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts.[7] He now teaches at the IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Writing career[edit]

In addition to his novels, Orange has also published a profile of a Native American teen (17-year-old Jeffrey Martinez) for Esquire in 2019,[8] revealing what life is like for a Native American today. Orange has also published short stories in the literary magazines McSweeney’s, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Zyzzyva.[9]

Orange also participated in an episode of The Archive Project at the 2019 Sun Valley Writers' Conference. In the episode, he states that in many ways this book was for his dad and about his dad, whom he described as someone "very secure in their Indianness and doesn’t necessarily teach it to their kids".[10]

Orange's second novel Wandering Stars was featured on the cover of the March 2024 issue of BookPage magazine. The cover story featured an article by Orange regarding the inspiration and process of completing the novel.[11] He expressed significant concern that a follow up novel to There There could be perceived as "lowbrow" before it was released. He wrote that a sequel felt "Like it belonged in the Marvel-Universe of decision-making, like people would think it was a cash grab even though I made the decision before the success of There There".[11] He also stated that the title of the novel was inspired by the 1994 song Wandering Star by Portishead.

Inspiration for There There[edit]

Orange has said that his inspiration for There There came in a single moment. At the time, he was working in a digital storytelling booth at the Native American Health Center and also at a non-profit founded by the University of California, Berkeley called Story Center. His roles were to record oral stories and to staple and make copies of grants, burning sage, and sending them off with a prayer.[3] This work led him to realize that the stories of urban Natives needed to be heard, especially by other urban Natives so they would be able "to see their own stories reflected in a bigger way." Orange said that "Native people are pretty invisible" and he wanted to tell a story about a community that people knew too little about. He believes that hearing a story similar to one's own is powerful and helps people to feel that they exist, and belong to a real community. Orange has said that feeling out of place makes it harder to be a strong human being. It was his goal to expand the range of what it meant to be Native.[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Orange received the John Leonard Prize in 2018, which is awarded for an author’s first book in any genre. In 2019, he received the PEN/Hemingway Award, which is dedicated to first-time authors of full-length fiction books,[12] and the American Book Award, denoting "an outstanding literary achievement".

There There also received nominations for other recognitions, including the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Audie Award for Multi-voiced Performance, and two from Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Fiction and Best Debut Goodreads Author.



  • There There (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. ISBN 978-0525520375)
  • Wandering Stars (Alfred A. Knopf, 2024. ISBN 978-0593318256)[13]

Short stories[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ León, Concepción de (April 16, 2019). "What Pulitzer Prize-Nominated Books Should You Read First?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 15, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Tommy Orange among winners of American Book Award". Associated Press. August 19, 2019. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Chang, Jeff. "Tommy Orange in Conversation with Jeff Chang". City Arts & Lectures. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  4. ^ Lenhoff, Linda. "Native Son". Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  5. ^ Alter, Alexandra (May 31, 2018). "Tommy Orange's 'There There' is a New Kind of American Epic". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 25, 2021. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Button, Liz (May 18, 2018). "A Q&A With Tommy Orange, Author of June's #1 Indie Next List Pick". American Booksellers Association. Archived from the original on April 24, 2021. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  7. ^ Gross, Joe. "Praise for 'There There' still flowing for debut author Tommy Orange". Austin American. Archived from the original on February 27, 2021. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  8. ^ "Escape Velocity: The Astonishing Life of 17-Year-Old Jeffrey Martinez". Esquire. October 29, 2019. Archived from the original on July 21, 2023. Retrieved July 21, 2023.
  9. ^ Ruland, Jim (November 21, 2019). "Tommy Orange adjusts to all the attention as a 'There There' sequel flows along". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 16, 2020. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  10. ^ Proctor, Andrew (July 22, 2019). "Tommy Orange". Literary Arts. Archived from the original on October 24, 2020. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Orange, Tommy. "Following A Wandering Star". BookPage (Mar 2024): 14–15. Archived from the original on 2024-03-07. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  12. ^ "2019 PEN/Hemingway Winner -Tommy Orange". The Hemingway Society. Archived from the original on November 26, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  13. ^ Elliott, Claire S.; Giroux, Rose C. (April 13, 2023). "Tommy Orange Visits Harvard Art Museums to Talk About New Novel, Indigenous Identity". The Crimson. Archived from the original on September 11, 2023. Retrieved September 19, 2023.
  14. ^ "Never Whistle at Night: 9780593468463 | Books". Archived from the original on 2024-01-08. Retrieved 2024-01-10.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]