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First installment of OCU speaker series to feature Native American author Tommy Orange

Oklahoma City University will host author of “There There” Tommy Orange as the first speaker in its Student Affairs Speaks series. This first installment, free and open to the public, is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 1.

The Student Affairs Speaks series, created by the university’s Division of Student Affairs, is a collaborative effort with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes; the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the OCU Center for Interpersonal Studies in Film and Literature. Each speaker will share expertise on a different facet of equity and inclusion, ranging from race and class to gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and disabilities.

“Our goal is to bring high-profile artists, scholars and experts to share their knowledge and lived experiences with us while engaging in critical conversations,” Director of Student Engagement Dr. Tiffany Smith, a citizen of Cherokee Nation and descendant of Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said. “We are particularly thrilled to partner with Tommy’s nation to bring him home to engage with our local community and his own tribal community in important conversations about Indigenous identity and historical trauma, sharing the beauty of our diverse tribal cultures through our ways of storytelling and spirituality.”

Orange will present the inaugural discussion “Writing as Resistance” to shed light on the trials and tribulations of Native Americans throughout the nation’s history, particularly in urban neighborhoods. A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, Orange attended the Master of Fine Arts program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His debut novel, “There There,” was one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year and won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the Pen/Hemingway Award. The multi-generational story was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

“The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are proud of Tommy Orange,” Cheyenne and Arapaho Governor Reggie Wassana said. “His book, ‘There There,highlights Indigenous storytelling about tribal citizens’ experience of relocating to urban cities. Orange’s work is critical and brings awareness to diversity within the culture. He’s an inspiration to the youth to keep excelling in life, not to quit, and to go after your goals.”

To register for the free event, visit okcu.link/orange.