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 40)
Oakland, California, U.S.

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 Masters 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 Angels Camp, 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. According to a New York Times review, Orange's father was a Native American ceremony leader, while his mother converted for a time to Christianity.[5] After graduating from a community college with a bachelor of science in sound arts, Orange worked at a bookstore in San Leandro called Gray Wolf Books,[6] where he developed a passion for reading and thus began writing.[7]


Orange obtained a bachelor's in audio engineering from a community college and later obtained a Master of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts.[8] He now teaches at the IAIA.

Writing career[edit]

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

Inspiration for There There[edit]

Orange has said that his inspiration for There There came in a single moment. He was working at the time 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.[7]

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,[11] and the American Book Award, denoting "an outstanding literary achievement".

There There also received nominations for various 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ León, Concepción de (2019-04-16). "What Pulitzer Prize-Nominated Books Should You Read First?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  2. ^ "Tommy Orange among winners of American Book Award". AP NEWS. 2019-08-19. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  3. ^ a b Chang, Jeff. "TOMMY ORANGE in Conversation with Jeff Chang". City Arts & Lectures. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  4. ^ Lenhoff, Linda. "Native Son". Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  5. ^ Alter, Alexandra (31 May 2018). "Tommy Orange's 'There There' is a New Kind of American Epic". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "In the Margins / East Bay independent bookstores thriving in the shadow of big chains". 19 January 2001.
  7. ^ 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. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  8. ^ Gross, Joe. "Praise for 'There There' still flowing for debut author Tommy Orange". Austin 360. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  9. ^ Ruland, Jim (November 21, 2019). "Tommy Orange adjusts to all the attention as a 'There There' sequel flows along". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  10. ^ Proctor, Andrew (July 22, 2019). "Tommy Orange". Literary Arts. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  11. ^ "2019 PEN/Hemingway Winner -Tommy Orange". The Hemingway Society. Retrieved 2020-11-17.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]