Creating the Multi-Voiced Audiobook of There There by Tommy Orange

By Jennifer Rubins | October 30 2023 | Audiobook News

As excitement builds for Tommy Orange’s second novel, Wandering Stars (coming Feb 27, 2024; HC, ebook, Large Print, CD, & Audio Download), we are taking a look—or rather a listen— back at the audio production of There There. Recorded in 2018, the audiobook production received praise for its authentic casting and effective storytelling, and was nominated for a 2019 Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance. Hear from PRH Sr. Executive Producer, Sarah Jaffe, who gave some insight into the production of this beloved audiobook:

Author Tommy Orange

Author Tommy Orange

Did you have a clear vision from the beginning that this would be a multi-voice narration?

Sarah: “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?

Sr Exec Producer, Sarah Jaffe

Sarah: “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.”

There There
A novel

Audio Praise: 
“Narrators Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Kyla García, and Alma Cuervo help to keep characters distinct; that all but Cuervo identity as Native American/First Nations undoubtedly enhances their nuanced performances.”—Library Journal, starred review

“The ensemble cast of narrators does an impressive job of creating distinctive, emotionally resonant characterizations.”—Booklist

“An ensemble cast is an effective vehicle for a novel about contemporary Native Americans living in Oakland, California. . . Listeners will enjoy the individual stories as they unfold and slowly intertwine. The emotions that Alma Cuervo and Kyla Garcia bring to the characters of Jacquie Red Feather and her sister, Opal, are particularly memorable.”—AudioFile

Wandering Stars
A novel

The eagerly awaited follow-up to Pulitzer Prize-finalist Tommy Orange’s breakout best seller There There—winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, the John Leonard Prize, the American Book Award, and one of the New York Times‘s 10 Best Books of 2018—Wandering Stars traces the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School through to the shattering aftermath of Orvil Red Feather’s shooting in There There.