In his novel There There Tommy Orange says: “The tragedy of it all will be unspeakable, the fact that we’ve been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant, alive, only to die in the grass wearing feathers.” What do you think he means?
In the novel There There, Tommy Orange writes about the experiences of Native Americans in Oakland, California. In the quote you mentioned, he is reflecting on the tragedy of Native Americans being killed, even as they are fighting to be recognized as modern and relevant people.
The phrase “the tragedy of it all will be unspeakable” suggests that the violence against Native Americans is so horrific that it cannot be adequately described in words. The phrase “we’ve been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people” refers to the long history of Native Americans fighting for their rights and for recognition of their culture and identity. The phrase “modern and relevant” suggests that Native Americans are not just people from the past, but are also living, breathing people who are part of the present day. The phrase “only to die in the grass wearing feathers” refers to the fact that Native Americans are often killed in ways that are consistent with their traditional culture, such as being shot while wearing feathers.
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