Arts & Culture

Timberland Reads Together chooses ‘There, There’ by Tommy Orange for this year’s read

The Timberland Library System’s annual community reading event, Timberland Reads Together, will feature Tommy Orange and his book “There, There,” a novel about 12 native American characters who cross paths at the Big Oakland Powwow.

Orange, a native American author from Oakland, California, will speak at the main event on Sept. 22.

Trisha Cronin, the District Adult Services Manager for the Timberland Regional Library system, is excited that this year’s event will put the focus on underrepresented groups in Thurston County.

“In this case we wanted to highlight some marginalized voices that are very present in our community, Cronin said. “We actually have six federally recognized tribes in our community and one non-federally recognized tribe. So we wanted to highlight their voices and give people an idea of what their lives are like today — not in the past but how they’re living now.”

The library system chose the book for this year’s event in 2018, after “There, There” began receiving positive press. Shortly after the book selection, Orange went on to be featured on the New York Times’ list of “The 10 Best Books of 2018” as well as winning the PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut novel in 2019, among other honors.

“We are really lucky to get him,” Cronin said. “I think we would have trouble booking him now because we got him sort of right before all this happened.”

A series of different events at different branches in the library system will highlight native voices and experiences in the region. For example, the Centrailia Timberland Library is hosting an event on Sept. 9 titled “We’re Still Here: The Survival of Washington Indians,” which will feature an exhibit loaned from the Memorial Museum in Puyallup that focuses on “present issues, challenges and successes that Washington Indians have experienced through the years in Washington State.”

The Lacey Timberland Library will host the vocal group Wageeyah i chx yab, Thunderbirds Raised Her, who will perform contemporary Native American songs on Sept. 14. Check out events happening at other libraries on the Timberland Regional Library website events page.

Starting Sept. 1, “There, There” will be available for unlimited e-book checkouts on the Libby app for anyone who would like to participate in the events throughout September and October. Cronin also said the libraries have quite a few hard copies to go around.

One of the most exciting parts of the event for Cronin is how excited the public is to participate.

“We’re going to give native people in our area the opportunity to meet him,” Cronin said of Orange. “I know both the Squaxin Island and Skokomish are planning to actually bus people up for the event. It’s very cool to me to do something people are so excited about.”

Cronin is also excited to have Dawn Barron, a native poet, activist, and head of the Native Pathways program at The Evergreen State College, moderate the discussion around Orange’s book. Cornin suggests people arrive early for the Sept. 22 event, as Orange has already sold out a 700-seat event in Tacoma that will take place two days earlier.

The free event will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia. Doors open at 6 p.m., seating begins at 6:30 p.m.