Summary: Calvin Johnson

Before the Big Oakland Powwow, Calvin, Charles, Carlos, and Octavio eat breakfast at Denny’s. Calvin has told them that the prize money is in gift cards, locked in a safe. They have a description of Edwin and Blue, so they believe that they can find the safe easily. Calvin is more worried about getting away with the robbery than actually getting the money. Octavio says that they are not going to rush their heist. 

Summary: Daniel Gonzales

Daniel tries to convince Octavio to let him go to the Big Oakland Powwow so he can watch the robbery. Octavio repeatedly tells him that he must stay home. Daniel says that Octavio owes him, and that Octavio is the reason his family is so broken. Octavio gets upset and agrees that Daniel can fly his drone in to watch, but he must be careful, because the drone could be traced back to Daniel.

Summary: Jacquie Red Feather

Jacquie and Harvey reach Oakland the night before the Big Oakland Powwow. Harvey offers Jacquie a bed in his hotel room, but Jacquie declines, offended by his presumptuousness. The next day, Jacquie sits in the canopy tent with the sound system, where Harvey will emcee the powwow. When she asks if he memorizes all of the dancers’ names, he shows her a clipboard with the names listed. Jacquie tells Harvey that there are no hard feelings, but she is irritated when he says that he knows, because she feels that Harvey should feel guilt for impregnating her against her will. Jacquie tells Harvey that their daughter is 42 years old. Jacquie sees Orvil’s name on the dancer list and texts Opal.

Summary: Octavio Gomez

After Octavio, Charles, Carlos, and Calvin clear security with their plastic guns, Octavio retrieves the socks full of bullets from the bushes and goes to the bathroom. He loads his gun with a sense of dread and then hands the socks to the next stall, where the others load their guns. Octavio feels a bullet drop and roll out the stall, and he hears the squeak of shoes enter the bathroom.

Summary: Edwin Black

Edwin enjoys listening to the loud voice of the emcee, knowing that it is his father. After the Grand Entry, Blue convinces Edwin to walk over and introduce himself. Harvey hugs Edwin, immediately recognizing him. Harvey introduces Edwin and Blue to Jacquie. Blue turns very pale. She tells Edwin that they should get back to their tent, and that they can come visit more throughout the day. Once they are far enough away from Harvey and Jacquie, Blue tells Edwin that she thinks that Jacquie is her mother, and she is visibly stressed out.


Powwow begins with the promise of community, but the subsequent five chapters chip away at its optimism as they reveal the dangers that have been building. Orange effectively relies here on dramatic irony, for readers and some of the characters are in the know while others are oblivious to the impending danger. No matter how much each knows about the threat, nervous anxiety runs through and connects this group of chapters. Edwin worries about meeting his birth father, Jacquie about meeting her grandsons. The various members of the gang struggle to contain both apprehension and adrenaline, their cohesion fraying, while other characters bicker over the past and the future. Everyone has come to the powwow equipped with emotional baggage that needs to be unpacked an explored.

Orange deftly uses sound across these chapters to convey this shared anxiety. This is most obvious in Octavio’s chapter in which small sounds like the squeak of a shoe or the noise of a bullet rolling across the floor fill the space. Unfortunately, Octavio does not listen to what either these emotions or the sounds are trying to tell him, a decision that brings fatal consequences. In contrast, Edwin cannot help but hear the booming sound of Harvey’s voice. As the powwow emcee, Harvey’s voice fills the stadium, and it is not long before this sonic embrace becomes actual and authentic. The promise lingers as yet unrealized that Blue too will enjoy the authentic connection she yearned for previously.