cover image Wandering Stars

Wandering Stars

Tommy Orange. Knopf, $29 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-31825-6

Orange follows up his PEN/Hemingway-winning There There with 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. The sequel is wider in scope, beginning with stories of the family’s ancestors before catching up to the present. Those ancestors include Jude Star, who barely survives the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in what is now Colorado as a youth and is sent to a prison in St. Augustine, Fla., where he’s forced to learn English and read the Bible. Jude later works as a farmhand in Oklahoma and raises his son Charles, who is sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. As a young man in the early 1900s, Charles drifts into San Francisco, where he becomes addicted to morphine while contending with the trauma of forced assimilation and unspecified abuse at Carlisle (“There is something deeper down, doing its dark work on him some further forgotten thing, but what is it? His life is about knowing it is there but not ever wanting to see it”). In the present, high school freshman Orvil Red Feather recovers at home in Oakland after being struck by a stray bullet during the powwow. Like Charles, he becomes addicted to opiates and struggles to connect with his cultural identity after his grandmother neglects to share details about their Cheyenne heritage. 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. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi, Inc. (Mar.)