Tommy Orange’s Transformative Bronx High School Visit

By Luis Diaz | April 12 2024 | General

“Tommy’s gonna be in the city next week to promote his new book! We have to invite him here!” And so began an email inviting Knopf author Tommy Orange to visit Millennium Art Academy in the Bronx. The email originally came into the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau inbox. The inbox is inundated with fan mail, the-opposite-of-fan-mail, and of course actual speaking requests, too!

We asked Jordan Rodman, Senior Director of Publicity, to tell us more about this inspiring encounter:

“I received [an] amazing email from a high school teacher in the Bronx that compared Tommy Orange’s words to Shakespeare. It rose above the noise of my inbox because of how well-written and real it was, and the fact that it included direct quotes from students. I immediately forwarded the email to Tommy and asked if we could make a visit to the school while he was in NYC for book tour for his new novel, Wandering Stars 

Tommy told me to move his schedule around to make this class visit work, no matter what. Next, I called the incredible teacher and told him Tommy was in, which was especially great because I could hear the kids cheering in the background. They were absolutely overjoyed! 

Then, because I really couldn’t get over the passion and positive energy emanating from the teacher’s email, I pitched the New York Times a story about Tommy’s forthcoming class visit and they wrote back right away saying they wanted to cover! So a few days later, along with Liz Egan from the NYT, Tommy and I went to an AP English class in the Bronx all about Tommy and his work.  

Tommy Orange sat at the front of a classroom in the Bronx, listening as a group of high school students discussed his novel There There. Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times


As we walked down the school hallways, the kids fist pounded Tommy and literally cheered as though they were seeing an A-list celebrity. In class, it was so immensely moving to see the students engaging with the material, writing thesis statements about Tommy’s first novel, There There, and sharing how Tommy’s words helped them find their love of reading for the first time and made them feel less alone.  

Tommy and I were moved to tears that day. This whole experience reminded me why we do the work we do and will stay with me for a long while.” 

Read the New York Times article in its entirety here, and discover how the inclusion of Tommy Orange’s There There in the school’s curriculum positively influenced the school’s population.  

There There

Tommy Orange’s shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to each other in ways they may not yet realize. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.

$17.00 US
May 07, 2019
304 Pages

Wandering Stars
A novel

The Pulitzer Prize-finalist and author of the breakout bestseller There There delivers a masterful follow-up to his already classic first novel. Extending his constellation of narratives into the past and future, Tommy Orange traces the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School through three generations of a family in a story that is by turns shattering and wondrous.

$29.00 US
Feb 27, 2024
336 Pages