The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, Thomas King


“And you’re probably wondering how in the world I expect you to believe any of this, given the fact that we live in a predominantly scientific, capitalistic, Judeo-Christian world governed by physical laws, economic imperatives, and spiritual precepts.  

Is that what you’re thinking? 

It’s okay.  You won’t hurt my feelings.”

I don’t really want to pin my Bookstravaganza reads against each other, but if I may, I think my ninth book has been my favourite so far.   I can already hear the sighs and thoughts “Oh Sydney, and all that Native lit. she reads.”  Let me stress this to you – if I can get you to read any Aboriginal literature, I will make you start with this one, and also end with this one.  

Through this book, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, also read for the CBC Massey Lectures, King explores the function of stories and how stories have shaped the modern Aboriginal perspective as well as the outside perspective of Indigeneity.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Thomas King, he’s part Cree (and Greek apparently, according to Wikipedia) and grew up in the United States.  Since the 80’s, King has called Canada his home, living all over (including Lethbridge at one point!)  For those of us Canadians who are eager to hear about how much BETTER Canada is than the US of A, he won’t really give that to you — instead he identifies as a North American, calling into the question why we pay so much attention to such silly things as lines drawn on maps by men.

I can’t really give a plot summary, because this isn’t a novel.  And it isn’t really fiction (although after reading a book like this, you begin to question even the existence of those ridiculous established literary boundaries.)  Thomas King is fantastic at weaving stories of his own life with the lessons he wants to tell, the hard-hitting concepts he wants us to mull over.    It’s brief and beautifully written, and I so admire his self-discipline to not beat a point to death, like I have a tendency of doing. I also absolutely loved how King prefaced each chapter with the same story, reminding us that even the same story is always told a little bit differently each time it is told.  And as I engage in a competition to see who can read the most, King reminds me that written literacy is not the be-all or end-all — we can’t forget about the power of the oral stories themselves, the stories that will only ever exist once.  The stories that die off our lips and are resurrected in the listener.   

If you want a bit of history from the North American Aboriginal perspective, King will tell you that.  If you want a little bit of a social perspective of Aboriginal-White relations, King will give you that.  If you just want to hear a story told a little bit differently, King is your man.  And if you especially want to hear a different story of a different race and different culture from yours without feeling the MEGA GUILT all of us white people are so deathly AFRAID OF, you should read this.  As you should know, guilt is totally counter-productive, but the stories that Thomas King tells, like all stories, are not.      

  One of the best quoted lines we English undergrads cling to and might possibly have tattooed somewhere on our bodies comes from the very title of this book — and it’s the secret you are all dying to know.   



Books Read: 9

 Note: You might think it’s weird I chose a giant picture of the author for this one, but King always has entirely badass author pictures that I just had to show this through the blog post.  I don’t say this often, but this is a man in a fedora you seriously want to listen to.


4 responses to “The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, Thomas King

  1. Reblogged this on a love for words and commented:

    Family, friends, if you are going to read any of my reviews, please read this one. For all of us maybe confused about the whole “Native American” issues, this book offers a great perspective. And it’s only 180 pages! I am buying a hard copy and lending it TO ALL OF YOU!

  2. Pingback: The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, Thomas King |·

  3. This is one of my favourite books, so I won’t be surprised if this is your favourite Bookstravaganza read. Even though few weeks go by when I don’t think or talk about this book, I still believe it’s a pleasant coincidence that I was just talking about The Truth About Stories last night!

  4. Of all the books I’ve ever read that attempt to get at how we find a place for ourselves in the human world, this one is the best. And for anyone wanting a follow-up, read King’s An Inconvenient Indian. It will forever change how you see North American history. I promise.

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