Cover Image: Wandering Stars

Wandering Stars

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Member Reviews

I didn’t realize this was connected to There There until I got about halfway in and recognized the characters and stories from that book.

This novel felt like two different books, first half in the past with a handful of characters, and then the second half in the present with a different generation.

While I really enjoyed the novel, similar to There There, I felt like there were SO many characters that sometimes it was hard to follow. The second half was easier because I knew those characters from the author’s first book and it felt like falling back into where the first book left off.

While I liked that aspect, I wish this book would have been entirely the first set of characters. I think the understanding is to get the history of this family, and to see how the events impacted each future generation, but with all the characters and different stories, it importance of the first half was a little lost. I felt like I’d finished a different novel than I’d started.

I think if you loved There There, you’ll love this one. The style of writing is the same, and you revisit characters from that book and their story continues, and you get more of a backstory on their history.

Content Warnings: Addiction, Drug Abuse, Self Harm, Suicide Attempt

Thank you @netgalley and @aaknopf for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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Reading challenge category - Booklist Queen 2023: Dual timelines

In the extended prologue, we meet Jude Star, a survivor of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. Throughout the rest of the novel, the reader embarks on an odyssey through the lives of multiple generations of Star's relatives and other characters whose lives intersect in poignant ways. In an unexpected turn, we revisit characters from Orange's first work, "There, There."

Tommy Orange is skilled in his character development as he creates rich, well-rounded characters who have unique stories and voices. He navigates Native American heritage and assimilation with diverse experiences and authenticity.

While I enjoyed "There, There" more, this was a great read. Thanks to #NetGalley for the arc ebook.

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The deliberate stripping of Native American identity and culture is not that kind of situation discussed in Martin Puchner’s illuminating book about the heterogeneity of culture—the notion that given cultures are not freshly sprouted and unadulterated stock. Rather, culture as we use the term is a mixed bag of borrowing or imposing culture systems through invasion and colonization or simply the normal blending that results from mass migrations and resettlements.

In this story, the cultural stripping is not being done by a foreign power. It is not a thing of centuries past in some distant and mysterious world. Rather, it is an instance of one group of Americans—who it might be noted hold the entire stock of hard and soft power—deciding its culture is superior to that of another American group. The story that unfolds in this book is about generational trauma and the challenge of thriving as forced adoptees of a transplant culture. It is about today’s world and should serve as a reminder that it is naïve and dangerous to force one’s view of the world on another’s agency.

Thank you to Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

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i liked this second work by orange a lot! i didnt expect this to pull in the historical element so much, it varied in time periods a lot more then i anticipated and more then his debut did. customers seem to be really responding to the shelf talker i made for these and selling consistently!

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Let me first point out that you will not breeze through Tommy Orange’s books. His storytelling is beautiful, but the topics he covers are difficult: colonization, erasure, forced assimilation, generational trauma, racism, and the resulting consequences of fractured identity, addiction, and mental health struggles.

There, There ends with the Red Feather family. Wandering Stars picks up that story and starts from the beginning of the Bear Shield/Red Feather bloodline and works forward. Then, Wandering Stars moves past the aftermath at the conclusion of There, There, and into the future for the Red Feather family. Each book reads as a stand-alone novel, but I recommend reading them in order to experience Tommy Orange’s complete heartbreaking yet hopeful storytelling.

His writing explains the neglected, lost, or forgotten (pick whatever word you prefer but ultimately erased) history in American history books. But unlike any history book, his masterful storytelling makes you feel actually how heavy and heartbreaking this history is. So Impactful! Metaphors, analogies, and, at times, mockery (these points I found really humorous) fill the pages of this brilliant literary piece that should be required reading for high school and college students. I will forever read ANYTHING the Tommy Orange writes!!

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I was a little lost at first, mostly because I was reading on a tablet and couldn't refer to the family tree as I normally would. I liked when I recognized the characters from There, There and enjoyed the end of the story. He is such a talented writer.

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When a sequel to There, There was announced I was thrilled. There, There ended on a huge cliffhanger and I had no idea if there would be any closure. This is a difficult book to review. The writing is excellent, and I would expect nothing less from the great Tommy Orange. The book follows the Red Feather family back to Jude Star, a Cheyenne man who survived both the massacre of his people and years in prison, which would become the first residential school. I enjoyed the first part o the book the most which details the lives of the Star/Redfeather ancestors. Orange doesn't go into great detail about life in the prison and residential schools, but the impact on Jude and others is clear. The trauma of being unmoored from your culture continues with the current Redfeathers: Opal, Jackie, Orvill, Loother and Lony. The current section is even more difficult to read because you care about these characters so much, but there doesn't seem to be much hope for the future. The epilogue offers some solace.

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This was a hard read for me. I feel so badly about how the native Americans were treated and this book was an eye opener. I never knew how bad things really were. It was written very well and flowed so easily to read. The scenes weee so developed I could see them so clearly in my mind.

It is a good book but such a rough time for the people who were here before.

Thank you NetGalley and Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

This is an excellent and important book. A worthy successor to There There.

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This emotional book was a series of short stories from the view of indigenous people describing the impact of the massacres, dislocation and forced assimilation of Native Americans to the European white culture. It ran through several generations of the Star family, although they were not individually named, and how the traumatic events and mistreatment affected them. .
I found the book hard to get into and to stick with because of the heavy content and the long run on sentences. The content was heavy with atrocities, family disruption, drugs and alcohol abuse. I had a hard time connecting with the multiple characters
I kept looking for a cohesive plot but the best I could come up with was a snapshot of the mistreatment of these family members by white government and individuals which lead them to resentment and addiction. I know that I'm the outlier on this book as it has had many positive comments, but I did learn that this author is just not for me.

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Tommy Orange's There There was my first 5-star book of this year and had me I immediately pre-ordering Wandering Stars.

This follow up contains the same mesh of narratives from across time and more of Orange's powerful and beautiful prose. While it's still a 5-star book in my opinion, it didn't work quite as well for me as There There. While the various narratives in There There build towards a defining event, most of Wandering Stars is dealing with the aftermath of that event. This book deals with America's history of forced assimilation via residential schools, the large and growing addiction crisis, generational trauma, and other tough topics. It's about history and the present, about who is allowed to tell their stories and why stories matter, and about the importance of learning history.

Wandering Stars is a beautiful book and deserves all the praise it has been getting, and I cannot wait to reread these books while I wait anxiously for whatever Tommy Orange will write next.

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This is the long awaited follow-up to There, There by Tommy Orange. I read it without going back to reread There, There because I wanted to know if it could stand alone. I remember how impactful There, There was, but I didn't remember very much else. I was able to get into Wandering Stars without going back and rereading. I listened to the audiobook - the narrators were great.

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I am a massive fan of the author so naturally I had to pick this one up. I am feeling extremely sensitive today so I struggled with the honest traumatic stuff, even though I feel like I need to read this.
This would be a great book discussion book.

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Tommy Orange is an incredibly talented author, but this is a difficult book to recommend. It relies a lot on the events in his first book, THERE THERE, but it's not really a sequel. It's somewhere between a short story collection and a novel, with a lot of characters and timelines that don't feel well balanced. Overall, it seems a little underbaked, although it has moments of brilliance.

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“Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”

The title of U.S. Brigadier Gen. Richard Henry Pratt’s speech, delivered in 1892 at the National Conference of Charities and Correction in Denver, summed up a widely held American philosophy of assimilation.

The agenda to assimilate the American Indian was not new, but Pratt, the head of the Carlisle Indian School, fully believed he could “civilize” and “Americanize” Indigenous children. He had “successfully civilized” American Indian prisoners of war at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Fla. The Carlisle School, founded in 1879, was only one piece of a larger that would strip Indigenous populations of the land, their culture, their heritage and their children.

The foundations for all of this were laid two years earlier, with the passage of the Dawes Act of 1877, also known as the General Allotment Act. Named for its sponsor, U.S. Sen. Henry Laurens Dawes, a Republican from Pittsfield, the act promised citizenship to American Indians but at a hefty price. (Citizenship would be grated to all American Indians in 1924 in the Indian Citizenship Act, although voting rights were governed by state law until 1957.) The repercussions of the act are still ongoing.

With assimilation as its key goal, the act aimed to break up tribal governments and divide tribal lands into allotments that would be given to individuals and families. It encouraged European subsistence farming and ended hunting as a means of survival. And, it required all tribes agreeing to the act to register their members prior to the allotments.

In the end, the Dawes Act and the subsequent Curtis and Burke acts, stripped some 90,000 American Indians of 90 million acres, awarding them small parcels that typically could not be farmed. Surplus land was sold to non-Native settlers. White registrars decided which tribal members became landholders and citizens. Too often they based tribal registration on appearance and not lineage, as they created the Dawes Rolls, which many tribes still use to determine membership today.

Dawes and his daughter, Anna L. Dawes, a prominent anti-suffragist, would openly support the so-called Indian Schools, including Pratt’s Carlisle School, where more than 180 Indigenous children died from a combination of malnourishment, abuse and disease from poor living conditions. Those who survived the schools, were forced to abandon their native languages and customs, had their hair cut and forced to accept Christianity. Upon the completion of their programs, the children were often placed in servant positions in white homes or sent to work in factories.

The generational trauma resulting from the U.S. government’s war with the American Indians, the Dawes Act and the Indian Schools, is front and center in Tommy Orange’s sophomore novel, “Wandering Stars,” a follow-up to his popular Pulitzer finalist, “There, There.”

Part prequel and part sequel, “Wandering Stars,” opens with the Sand Creek Massacre. We are witnessing, through the memories of Jude Star, the very beginning of the trauma that will trickle down through the generations to his great-granddaughters, sisters Opal Bear Shield and Jacquie Red Feather, whom we first meet in “There, There.”

Jude, we learn, survives the massacre, only to later become a prisoner under Pratt’s rule at Fort Marion. When released, he is a pinnacle of civilization. He marries, has a child, Charles, who will end up in an Indian School, as will his childhood friend, Opal Victoria Bear Shield. They’ll end up in Oakland, share a daughter, Victoria Bear Shield, who one day will have two daughters, Jacquie and Opal.

This first part of the book can be tough to read, but is a necessary primer for understanding the pain and hardship that flows from generation to generation; the addiction that helps make everything easier.

We’re soon back with familiar characters, in 2018. Opal is still raising her sister’s grandsons — Orvil, Lother and Lony. Jacquie is still on the peripheral, coping with addiction, strained relationships, both past and present.

In this iteration of the Red Feather saga, Orange has circled back to clarify the present and future, while bringing in new characters facing similar challenges. Orvil befriends Sean, who he bonds with through music. Both boys have lost a mother; have been recovering from injuries that have kept them out of school. Both are Indigenous, although Sean has only just learned of his heritage through a DNA test. He’s adopted and identifies as Black. He questions if he even has the right to call himself anything else.

Sean’s heritage is a mystery to him, one he doesn’t pursue. Orvil’s heritage is a mystery, as what little history has existed has been stripped away by assimilation, urbanization and time. His one foray into connecting with his cultural heritage left him with bullet lodged in a shoulder.

Although he has lost his mother to addiction, sees his grandmother struggle with hers, the urge to slip into his own — spurred by prescription painkillers — is hard to ignore.

Orange has said in interviews that addiction is a topic he’s had to revisit, one that cannot be ignored, as he has had his own struggles. He does not treat it lightly, nor does he cast blame for today’s addiction issues solely on past traumas.

Trauma in the Indigenous community is generational, but it is also continual. American Indians, today, still deal with the ramifications of forced assimilation; of displacement; of a loss of cultural identity and heritage. Addiction is a double-edged sword as it serves as both a means of survival and as the gateway to self-destruction.

But, Orange is not all doom and gloom. For he knows that it can be better, that progress can be made and communities can heal if they work at it. He knows the Indigenous community is resilient, will continue to survive and continue to heal: “All the Indian children who were ever Indian children never stopped being Indian children went on to have … Indian children, whose Indian children became American Indians, whose American Indian children became Native Americans, whose Native American children would call themselves Natives or Indigenous …”

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Honestly incredible, a stunning follow-up to There, There. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.

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I was recently introduced to Tommy Orange's work through his novel, There There. I was riveted by his style, characters, and masterful storytelling abilities. I was so excited to receive this book as it connects to many of the characters from There There.

Wandering Stars is just as stunning as his prior work. While the newest installment jumps back and forth into time, I was enthralled by the experience of Native Americans from the 1800's to the modern day. Powerful themes of deceit, abuse, thievery, and forced assimilation are highlighted as being the foundation of interactions between Native people and Americans. Both heartbreaking and beautiful, Orange's novels expand my perspective and educate me on an important part of America's collective history.

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf publishing for the opportunity to read this amazing work.

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“Stories do more than comfort. They take you away and bring you back better made.”
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This is my favorite book of 2024, maybe of ever. It’s honest and speaks to your soul. It also speaks to addiction in a raw and visceral way. Death and life constantly intersect in this book. Orange writes lyrical prose that sweep across the page, and his masterful storytelling is simply unmatched. (Never marked so many quotes ❤️.)
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It’s 1864, and young Star is fleeing the Sand Creek massacre. He is captured and taken to Fort Marion prison castle, where he is forced to learn English and practice Christianity. Later, his son, Charles, is sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a school dedicated to the erasure of Native culture, history, and identity. Charles falls in love with an Opal Viola, and their bloodline will lead up to the modern day characters in There There. Struggles with addiction and generational trauma reverberate down through the decades.
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This book pierced my soul and shook me to my core. Do not sleep on this one👏! Thank you to @aaknopf for the copies of this book.
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Wandering Stars - Tommy Orange
5/5⭐️
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“Maybe we’re all looking for our bottoms and tops in search of balance, where the loop feels just right, and like it’s not just rote, not just repetition, but a beautiful echo, one so entrancing we lose ourselves in it.”
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“I’d lived enough life, almost died enough times to know when a good thing came along, a thing you didn’t know could fill you right up, which only when it filled you let you know there’d been a hole in you before.”
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“The spitting was about the bitter taste of deeply knowing the fact of it.”
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“Past family members and the ancestors were constantly sending their blessings and curses down through time from that beyond before, that gave his present its particular bent, its dimness, its light, its scream, and its song, but also its sometimes dead silence.”
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“To be human was to struggle, and to be a good human was to struggle gracefully…”
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I struggled with Tommy Orange's sophomore novel. The first section of the book felt as if it needed more editing. Characters seemed to get into long soliloquies. In these instances I would've preferred to be shown the event happening vs a character reminiscing about an event that had already taken place. I found myself getting easily distracted and pulled away from the book. I wasn't in that state of reading where you don't want to put a book down. Because of that I can't give the book a strong rating.

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while i'm sure its a very important book, it was much too serious for my mood at the time. i will try and pick it up if my mood fits it in the future

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