Creating the Audiobook of There There

If you haven’t listened to Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, then drop everything and start listening now. This critically acclaimed book has garnered praise ranging from authors Louise Erdrich and Margaret Atwood to publications including The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. In fact, There There has been a New York Times bestseller (on both the print and audio lists) since its June publication.

There There tells the story of twelve Native Americans who converge at the Big Oakland Powwow. The novel explores complex themes of identity, American history, substance abuse, and familial relationships in a way that grips listeners emotionally and intellectually.

Audiobook producer Sarah Jaffe gave us insight into the production of this multi-voice narration.

Did you have a clear vision from the beginning that this would be a multi-voice narration?
Absolutely. This explosive, gorgeously realized, utterly unique book is told by a kaleidoscopic range of voices, and it felt important that the audiobook stay true to the rich, clamorous sense of texture and vitality that’s so propulsive on the page, and capture the same messy, human window into a community pulsing with a wide variety of experiences, motivations, and perspectives that Tommy Orange has so beautifully crafted.

What was the casting process like? How collaborative was it with the author?
I worked closely with Tommy to determine the best approach to the casting structure. The book switches between first and third person, between the very close and the nearly omniscient, and spans all ages and genders and speech patterns. We knew multiple voices were the way to go, but how many, and what kind? Eventually we settled on a wonderful cast of four versatile alternating narrators, which created a sort of cohesive chorus effect, blending the first-person and third-person chapters into a sort of collective “we” of the community telling the story: Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Kyla Garcia, and Alma Cuervo. It felt important to cast Native American actors for this recording, since that sense of identity is so central to the book, and I was thrilled to end up with the tremendously talented cast we did. I found out that Darrell Dennis is also a writer as well as an actor and performer, and his work touches on some of the same themes Tommy Orange’s does. Any time I can pair an incredible writer’s work with actors with whom it really resonates, I feel like it’s a producer slam-dunk: my role is to help good writing find its perfect conduit to reach listeners in the most richly expressed, pure, immediate way possible, and when the author and the narrator(s) are, for lack of a better term, on the same page (ugh, sorry), it creates something really special.

Hear a clip and learn more about There There by Tommy Orange

There There

Listen to an excerpt THERE THERE

“Bravura… There There has so much jangling energy and brings so much news from a distinct corner of American life that it’s a revelation… its appearance marks the passing of a generational baton.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

There There drops on us like a thunderclap; the big, booming, explosive sound of 21st century literature finally announcing itself. Essential.” —Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

“Pure soaring beauty.” —Colm Toibin, The New York Times

“Tommy Orange drags Indian identity into the 21st century with raw, electrifying immediacy.” —Entertainment Weekly