For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

Announcing the 2020 One Book, One Philadelphia Featured Selection: There There by Tommy Orange

PHILADELPHIA, October 17, 2019—The Free Library of Philadelphia and the Office of the Mayor today announced that There There by Tommy Orange—a novel written in the voices of a dozen Native American characters of multiple generations as their lives intersect around a powwow in Oakland, California—has been chosen as the 2020 One Book, One Philadelphia featured reading selection.

Now marking its 18th season, the acclaimed literacy and civic dialogue initiative encourages the entire greater Philadelphia region to come together through reading and discussing the same book. The announcement marks the beginning of the reading period, during which Philadelphians are invited to delve into the featured selection before the official program period commences in January.

There There was one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year, won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. The novel will provide a great opportunity to focus on Lenape and pan-Indigenous experiences, histories, and futures represented in Philadelphia, including themes of cultural erasure, self-representation, and healing.

Running from January 22 through March 18, 2020, One Book, One Philadelphia’s innovative and wide-ranging programs will include more than 100 related events inspired by the featured selection, including panel discussions, film screenings, creative workshops, musical performances, and more—at Free Library locations and other destinations throughout the city. One Book will partner with arts organizations, nonprofits, and universities to present programs that will kick off on January 22, 2020, with a special author event at the Parkway Central Library featuring Tommy Orange in conversation with Tamala Edwards.

Orange, a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Orange currently lives in Angels Camp, California.

Young readers will join the conversation with youth companion titles If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth and When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett.

“We are thrilled to introduce Tommy Orange, author of the highly acclaimed novel There There, to Philadelphia readers. Referring to his impetus to write There There, Tommy Orange said, ‘As Native writers, there’s a certain feeling that you have to set the record straight before you even begin. It’s been told wrong, and not told, so often.’ Hailed as ‘an instant classic,’ Orange’s novel has inspired strong critical praise, including: ‘There There is a masterful, white hot, devastating debut novel, introducing a brilliant new author, a voice full of poetry and rage,’ and ‘a new kind of American epic,’” said One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field.

Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon said of There There: “Tommy Orange’s novel speaks powerfully to the importance of personal storytelling to cultural and civic life. Reading it together is going to encourage Philadelphians not only to share their stories and listen to those of a family member, a neighbor, or someone they meet at a book discussion, but also to consider crucial historical narratives that have been previously been kept out of the public spotlight. It’s going to strengthen us as a city.”

Founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Office of the Mayor, One Book, One Philadelphia motivates tens of thousands of people annually to read a featured selection and participate in programming that encourages empathy, understanding, and dialogue among Philadelphia’s many communities. The 2020 One Book program is endowed by the Joseph and Marie Field Fund and sponsored by the Field Foundation. Media sponsors include WHYY, Keystone Outdoor Advertising, and Harmelin Media. One Book, One Philadelphia is made possible through generous support from the Lenfest Foundation, PECO, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Along with curriculum materials, One Book will distribute thousands of copies of There There and If I Ever Get Out of Here to middle and high school students throughout the School District of Philadelphia. All Free Library locations will have copies of There There and the youth companion titles for customers to borrow with a Free Library card, as well as limited copies of the books available at book discussions for participants to keep. In addition, the Free Library will have ebook copies and downloadable audiobooks available for check-out from its website.  

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About the Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 31,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hot Spots; and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 5 million in-person visits and 5 million more online annually, the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.



Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850