We know that COVID put a lot of things on hold for a lot of people and organizations. A project that the Delaware County District Library was working on for 2020 was an author series. It was planned to take the natural next step after a highly successful author visit series the summer of 2019. The first person on the 2020 schedule was Tommy Orange. His visit would have been April 24, 2020.
When Orange’s novel “There There” was released in 2018 it became an instant bestseller, with every Delaware County District Library book club discussing it by the end of 2019. The library couldn’t keep copies of the book on the shelf, it was so popular. The book was immediately introduced to college curricula and became a must-read for a modern understanding of Native American history and identity. “There There” was favorably received, and became a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize.
It brings me so much joy to say that in one week, we finally will have Mr. Orange in Delaware County presenting on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. The fireside chat will be presented at the Orange Branch Library after-hours. Tickets are free, but seating is limited and may be reserved at the library’s website.
The conversation will be moderated by Ohio Wesleyan University professors Amy Butcher and Karen Poremski. Poremski’s research from the last part of her career examined how Native literature portrays the complex relationships between Native people, museums, and the objects in museums. Butcher currently serves as the director of creative writing and an associate professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University and teaches annually with the Sitka Fine Arts Camp in Sitka, Alaska. Her classes at OWU have been studying Mr. Orange’s essays since their publishing in 2018.
Mr. Orange’s visit comes in the middle of National Native American Heritage Month, a time set aside for Americans to explore the heritage, culture, and experience of Indigenous peoples both historically and in American life today. This month, I invite you to join in on the conversation in the ways that you are able. Perhaps it’s a seat at the visit, or perhaps it’s by watching or reading something to give you a new perspective. I recommend starting with “There There” or one of these titles.
• “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces” by Alexandra N. Harris and Mark G. Hirsch. Commemorates the 2020 opening of the National Native American Veterans Memorial at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the first landmark in Washington, DC, to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of Native veterans. American Indians’ history of military service dates to colonial times, and today, they serve at one of the highest rates of any ethnic group.
• “Poet Warrior: A Memoir” by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States. Three-term poet laureate Joy Harjo offers a vivid, lyrical, and inspiring call for love and justice in this contemplation of her trailblazing life. In absorbing, incantatory prose, Harjo grieves at the loss of her mother, reckons with the theft of her ancestral homeland, and sheds light on the rituals that nourish her as an artist, mother, wife, and community member.
• “Dog Flowers” by Danielle Geller. After Geller’s mother dies of a vicious withdrawal from drugs while homeless, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother’s documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins on a journey of confronting her family, her harrowing past, and the decisions she’s been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home – the Navajo reservation.
• “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdrich. A historical novel based on the life of the National Book Award-winning author’s grandfather traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th-century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.
• “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones. Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story” meets Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” in this American Indian horror story of revenge on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation, who were childhood friends, find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives, against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did during an elk hunt ten years earlier by killing them, their families, and friends.
If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the library’s web site at www.delawarelibrary.org or directly to Nicole at [email protected] No matter how you contact us, we’re always glad you asked!