Wandering Stars: A novel (Hardcover)
March 2024 Indie Next List
“Wandering Stars is an epic tale grounded in truth and elevated by Tommy Orange’s phenomenal storytelling. He brings a gruesome slice of US history to life and gives voice to a generation of Native people who live its legacy.”
— Claire Benedict, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT
A TIME MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK • The Pulitzer Prize-finalist and author of the breakout bestseller There There ("Pure soaring beauty."The New York Times Book Review) delivers a masterful follow-up to his already classic first novel. Extending his constellation of narratives into the past and future, Tommy Orange traces the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School through three generations of a family in a story that is by turns shattering and wondrous.
"For the sake of knowing, of understanding, Wandering Stars blew my heart into a thousand pieces and put it all back together again. This is a masterwork that will not be forgotten, a masterwork that will forever be part of you.” —Morgan Talty, bestselling author of Night of the Living Rez
Colorado, 1864. Star, a young survivor of the Sand Creek Massacre, is brought to the Fort Marion prison castle,where he is forced to learn English and practice Christianity by Richard Henry Pratt, an evangelical prison guard who will go on to found the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, an institution dedicated to the eradication of Native history, culture, and identity. A generation later, Star’s son, Charles, is sent to the school, where he is brutalized by the man who was once his father’s jailer. Under Pratt’s harsh treatment, Charles clings to moments he shares with a young fellow student, Opal Viola, as the two envision a future away from the institutional violence that follows their bloodlines.
In a novel that is by turns shattering and wondrous, Tommy Orange has conjured the ancestors of the family readers first fell in love with in There There—warriors, drunks, outlaws, addicts—asking what it means to bethe children and grandchildren of massacre. Wandering Stars is a novel about epigenetic and generational trauma that has the force and vision of a modern epic, an exceptionally powerful new book from one of the most exciting writers at work today and soaring confirmation of Tommy Orange’s monumental gifts.
About the Author
TOMMY ORANGE is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California. His first book, There There, was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and received the 2019 American Book Award. He lives in Oakland, California.
A Most Anticipated Book: TIME, Real Simple, Oprah Daily, Vulture, NPR, The Millions
“Orange’s ability to highlight the contradictory forces that coexist within friendships, familial relationships and the characters themselves, who contend with holding private and public identities, makes Wandering Stars a towering achievement.” —The New York Times
“A centuries-spanning epic of a Native family that manages to feel profoundly intimate.” —Vulture
“An eloquent indictment of the devastating long-term effects of the massacre, dislocation and forced assimilation of Native Americans, [Wandering Stars] is also a heartfelt paean to the importance of family and of ancestors' stories in recovering a sense of belonging and identity . . . Wandering Stars more than fulfills the promise of There There.” —NPR
“Outstanding . . . A dazzling work of literary fiction that springs from the center of otherness, [Wandering Stars] delves deep into what it means to be Native American in this country. At once a novel about family, loss, history, and addiction as well as a narrative that explores racism and belonging, Wandering Stars is proof that the sophomore slump is a myth, at least when it comes to Orange.” —The Boston Globe
“A multilayered, blisteringly honest novel . . . [Wandering Stars] undeniably soars.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“A rich expansion of Orange’s universe . . . As Wandering Stars sweeps through the decades, Orange gathers up moments of love and despair in stories that demonstrate what a piercing writer he is . . . It’s not too early to say that Orange is building a body of literature that reshapes the Native American story in the United States. Book by book, he’s correcting the dearth of Indian stories even while depicting the tragic cost of that silence.” —The Washington Post
"Wandering Stars probes the aftermath of atrocity, seeing history and its horrors as heritable . . . The reader can see what the characters cannot—what forced migration and residential schools have prevented them from seeing and sharing. The reader can see how the addictions and terrors, as well as the capacity for pleasure and endurance, echo across the Red Feather family." —The New Yorker
“In Wandering Stars, Tommy Orange finds different pockets, not just to flex, but to really get to beyond the marrow of this wonderfully blistered world. The work is so varied and textured but also ruthlessly clear in what it’s costing and what it’s destroying.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“If there was any doubt after his incredible debut, there should be none now: Tommy Orange is one of our most important writers. The way he weaves time and life together, demands we remember how our history shapes us. In this novel the pain and resilience of generations are summoned beautifully. A wonderous journey and a necessary reminder.” —Nana Kwame Adjei Brenyah, author of Chain Gang All Stars
“No one knows how to express tenderness and yearning like Tommy Orange. With an all-seeing heart, he traces historical and contemporary cruelties, vagaries, salvations and solutions visited upon young Cheyenne people, who cope with the impossible. In them, Tommy finds the unnerving strength that results when a broken spirit mends itself, when a wandering star finds its place, when, in spite of everything, Native people manage to survive.” —Louise Erdrich, author of The Sentence
“Here is something rare: a novel as generous as it is genius. The care coursing through these pages—care for people, care for art, care for truth—is nothing short of radical. Orange writes with a historian’s attention to detail and a poet’s attention to language, animating every passage with an energy that only he can conjure, transfixing and transforming. Wandering Stars is not just a book; it is a creature made of song and blood, multitudinous and infinite. This novel is alive.” —Tess Gunty, author of The Rabbit Hutch
“In his follow up to There There, Tommy Orange’s Wandering Stars is a powerful and indelible work of fiction. There is so much the reader is given: love, hate, happiness, despair, knowing, unknowing, failure, redemption, and more, all of which is to say that this is a book of life—a necessary story for everyone. For the sake of knowing, of understanding, Wandering Stars blew my heart into a thousand pieces and put it all back together again. This is a masterwork that will not be forgotten, a masterwork that will forever be part of you.” —Morgan Talty, best selling author of Night of the Living Rez
“In Wandering Stars, Tommy Orange opens us up to these big lives full of hope and triumph and love and freedom—but then the world comes in, history comes in, drugs and nation and bullets and the big and small lonelinesses come in. Richard Pryor said he wanted to get you laughing so your mouth would be open when he poured the poison down, and that's what Orange is doing here. Anyone can say a complicated thing in a complicated way, but Tommy says the hardest things plain—beyond artifice, beyond confection. That clarity, that radical lucidity, that’s the mark of true genius, a word I use here without hyperbole. Think Kafka, Lispector, Borges. Wandering Stars is the kind of book that saves lives, that makes remaining in the world feel a little more possible. It’s art of the highest order, written by one of our language’s most significant and urgent practitioners.” —Kaveh Akbar, author of Martyr!
"I don't know how many lives Tommy Orange has lived in this one to be able to do what he does so well, but Wandering Stars is a masterwork and an example of craft meeting storytelling excellence. If you loved Susan Power's The Grass Dancer and Michelle Good's Five Little Indians, if you love the writing of Lee Maracle, katherena vermette, Louise Erdrich, Cherie Demaline, Eden Robinson, Craig Lesley, Morgan Talty and James Welch, you are going to hold this novel to your heart because this is that magnificent. Bravo, Tommy Orange. Stand proud with what you've accomplished here. Wow!" —Richard Van Camp, author of The Moon of Letting Go
“A stirring portrait of the fractured but resilient Bear Shield-Red Feather family in the wake of the Oakland powwow shooting that closed out the previous book . . . With incandescent prose and precise insights, Orange mines the gaps in his characters’ memories and finds meaning in the stories of their lives. This devastating narrative confirms Orange’s essential place in the canon of Native American literature.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A searing study of the consequences of a genocide . . . Orange is gifted at elevating his characters without romanticizing them, and though the cast is smaller than in There There, the sense of history is deeper.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Tender yet eviscerating . . . There is so much life in this mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic novel . . . Orange's second novel is both prequel and sequel to the striking There, There and a centuries-spanning novel that stands firmly on its own.” —Booklist (starred review)