Event Recaps | 3 March 2021

The Deep Read – A Conversation with Tommy Orange


On March 3, 2021, The Humanities Institute produced its second annual Deep Read program. The 2022 Deep Read culminated in a live, online discussion of There There with author Tommy Orange.

Tommy Orange’s novel, There There depicts a variety of urban Native American characters living in Oakland, CA. We believe this novel meets the need to think deeply about Native American life in our contemporary moment, helping us rethink Native experience and representation. It was also hailed by last year’s Deep Read author, Margaret Atwood, as “an astonishing literary debut.”

Digging into There There

As we do every year, we read our annual text closely and comprehensively with the help from scholars at UC Santa Cruz.

Our Deep Read Scholars

We’ve enlisted a knowledgeable group of UC Santa Cruz professors who will help us analyze the book: 

  • Mayanthi Fernando, Anthropology
  • Katie Keliiaa, Feminist Studies & Indigenous Studies
  • Micah Perks, Literature
  • Renya Ramirez, Anthropology
  • Jennifer Tseng, Literature

Over 4 weeks in February, we’ll read and explored Tommy Orange’s novel together.

Here’s what we did:

Email Explorations

There were 4 weekly emails that dove into different aspects of the book, guided by UC Santa Cruz professors in the Humanities and Social Sciences.


On Thursday, February 18 at 5:20 PM, Creative Writing professors Micah Perks and Jennifer Tseng lead a virtual conversation about the techniques at play in the novel.

On Wednesday, February 24 at 5:30 PM, Professors Mayanthi Fernando,  Katie Keliiaa, and Renya Ramirez lead “Going Deep with There There,” a virtual salon-style conversation about the novel.

On Thursday, February 25 at 5:30 PM, we held a virtual discussion about the novel with members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, the Indigenous tribe native to the Santa Cruz region.

The Class

In Winter Quarter 2021, Porter College will offer a course in conjunction with the College Scholars Program featuring Tommy Orange’s novel, “Tommy Orange, There There, and the New Native Renaissance.” In the course, students explored how the power of collective storytelling and community activism is depicted in the struggle against the marginalization of Native life, the exploitation of Native lands, the continued erasure of Native experience from the historical record, and the legacies of genocide and occupation. Many insights from the class were shared with the broader Deep Read community.

The Deep Read is an annual program of The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz. We invite curious minds to think deeply about books and the most pressing issues of our contemporary moment with the help from scholars at UC Santa Cruz.

The Deep Read Program is made possible through the generous support of the Helen and Will Webster Foundation.