2024 First Year Student Convocation
Image by Michael Lionstar/Courtesy Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange, an author whose novels chronicle contemporary Native American life, will speak at Montana State University’s First Year Student Convocation next August at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. The free event is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2024. It is open to the public and tickets are not required.
Orange is an acclaimed Cheyenne and Arapaho writer whose 2018 debut novel, “There There," follows 12 contemporary Native Americans in Oakland, California, as their lives collide in the days leading up to the city’s inaugural Big Oakland Powwow. The multigenerational saga won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the American Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
The New York Times called “There There” “a new kind of American epic” and hailed Orange – a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma who was born and raised in Oakland – as “part of a new generation of acclaimed Indigenous writers from the United States and Canada who are shattering old tropes and stereotypes about Native American literature, experience and identity.
“These writers are radically reshaping the Native canon, with stylistically and thematically diverse works that reflect a broad range of influences,” the Times continued.
Orange graduated from college as a sound engineer but began writing fiction after working in a used bookstore, where he read novels that inspired him. He has a Master of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts. The school’s graduate writing program is largely staffed by and designed for Native writers.
Orange’s second novel, “Wandering Stars,” will be published in February 2024. The novel is both a prequel and a sequel to “There There,” traveling back in time through the lives of his characters and showing how events from generations ago still affect their experiences.
MSU President Waded Cruzado said she believes students will be intrigued by Orange’s work. MSU first-year students are asked to read “There There” in advance of the Aug. 20 event and will receive, as a gift from MSU, a copy of the book in the mail so that they can prepare, Cruzado noted.
“Tommy Orange’s nuanced writing will spark important conversations among students from our incoming first year class and members of the MSU community and beyond,” Cruzado said. “We are delighted to welcome him to this event that marks the beginning of our MSU students’ college experience.”
MSU’s First Year Student Convocation is the formal welcome of the incoming class, where the university focuses attention on the start of the academic, intellectual and personal journey of first-year students. Convocation demonstrates the support of the university and community to help students reach the goal of becoming the graduating class of 2028. Orange’s lecture will be part of MSU’s 17th convocation.