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Paperback The Truth about Stories : A Native Narrative Book

ISBN: 0887846963

ISBN13: 9780887846960

The Truth about Stories : A Native Narrative

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Book Overview

Winner of the 2003 Trillium Book Award "Stories are wondrous things," award-winning author and scholar Thomas King declares in his 2003 CBC Massey Lectures. "And they are dangerous." Beginning with a traditional Native oral story, King weaves his way through literature and history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest, gracefully elucidating North America's relationship with its Native peoples. Native culture has deep ties to...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Truth in stories

Discovering truth and meaning in our stories, uncovering the power dynamics behind whose stories are heard and whose voices get to tell the stories, this is a beautiful exploration of how we store knowledge in story and how that knowledge is passed on.

Who are we?

The simple truth about stories is that they impart who we are. Whether telling tales or reading/listening to what others have to say. King suggests that not only do stories explain us to ourselves and others, there are often deeper implications - sometimes dangerous ones. In this series of essays derived from the CBC's Massey Lecture series, this talented novelist and social commentator brings a fresh view to telling stories - a Native American outlook. This compelling overview is long overdue, and King manages to cover a great deal of territory in six essays. The questions he raises are a combination of long-standing viewpoints along with modern shifts of emphasis. King starts by contrasting two mythologies - one probably wholly unknown to you and one familiar. The first is the story of the Woman Who Fell From the Sky. Tumbling from the depths of space, "Charm" [for such is her name] arrives on a world completely covered in water. After several attempts, Charm convinces Otter to bring mud from the sea bottom so that there may be land for creatures to walk on. Not all wanted to be on the new land, so the animals divided the world into water creatures and land creatures with the birds able to cope with both. Thus the world was founded on a spirit of cooperation. The other myth is called "Genesis", the Judeo-Christian version of similar events, but with a very different frame of reference. The humans are restricted by One Rule - break it and you will die. The Rule is broken, of course, and King is at pains to avoid pointing the finger of guilt. The point of this comparison is that the Judeo-Christian myth contains the absolute condition of the One Rule, and the vengeful deity that imposed it. Charm would never have laid down such a stricture and King suggests that the Genesis story need not have done so either. Native American spirits have little need for such single-mindedness, as he explains in the following lectures. Why does Judeo-Christianity need it? King intertwines a number of personal accounts with his Aboriginal stories, and these are hardly intrusive in the narrative. He follows his mother's attempts to gain employment equity in an industry she's well-qualified to excel in. Looking for some adventure, he travels to New Zealand taking up various roles - one of which lasts but a day. Throughout his journeys, his origins become a question of increasing importance. In the European ["white"] world, the image of "the Indian" is in a constant state of flux. Ignorant on the one hand, but devious and cunning on the other. The Indian as Entertainer takes up much of one essay, and you are made aware that you likely hold that view without being aware of it. When the white world finally realised that neither extermination nor assimilation was going to define the fate of Aboriginal people, forms of "protection" were introduced in both the US and Canada. The "protection" must rest on defining just what an Indian is, and th

Master Storyteller

The Truth about Stories, a Native Narrative, By Thomas King. U of Minn. Press The Truth about Stories by Thomas King is the prestigious Massey Lectures on culture produced on Canada Broadcasting Corporation Radio. King is the writer of many of my favorite works including the very funny Medicine River that was made into a TV movie with Graham Greene. This book is another honor added to this Cherokee writer's portfolio. I found the book beautifully written and enjoyable as a interweaving of stories both from traditional sources and his personal life. King has a deft way of making fun of himself that resembles the lead character in Medicine River. At the same time he is as obvious in his manipulation of the reader as that character was in creating the situation that trapped the Graham Greene character into coming home. The book is laid out in five sections that begins with the story of "The Girl who fell to earth." King then proceeds through the comparison between native literature that stresses the interconnectedness of life and the authoritarian structure as experienced in the "Alpha Male" version of the Biblical Creation. What he doesn't mention is that this also has its parallel in native life in the Alpha character of Wolf society. But that is quibbling. King takes the listener reader through his life as a non-reservation Indian and as an activist author. He records funny encounters with reporters and journalists who struggle to understand how he could be "Indian." Or even what being Indian entails. He speaks to the problem of suicide amongst a people who are not afraid of death but can't find a reason for living and ends the book with the problem of his failure with a friend and the issue of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. If there is a problem in the lectures I would say that it doesn't really draw upon our strengths but more on the observations of Indians by outsiders eyes. Indian people had a full rich societal life with all that entailed prior to the plagues that destroyed us. I would like our story tellers to show us how these metaphorical myths opened up the depths of our spirits. How we had a science, art, economics, public health, laws and spirituality. How the stories walk lightly through these structures instead of with the steel tipped boots of the tyrant. Now that is a book about stories that I would enjoy even more than I enjoyed this one. And I enjoyed this one a great deal. Ray Evans Harrell (this is a review that i wrote for the nuyagi keetoowah newsletter for november 2005. )

Stories can change your life

This book is fantastic! The first chapter alone is a must read for everyone you know, and could change your life. About how the kinds of stories we tell can be paradigm-shifting. Deals with the romanticized notion of native americans (see also Edward Said's book ORIENTALISM), how an invented idea of "indian" has been used and abused by the u.s. in hypocritical ways, and how the stories we hear and tell about ourselves shape our identity. Lots of very sad facts about native american history in its relationship with the US government. The book is set up in a kind of spiral with a recurring story told in different ways at the beginning of each chapter. This book is really for everyone - not just those with an interest in native americans. The stories we are telling in America today are globally destructive and negative - let's start fresh with some positive stories to turn this country around - we are all on this planet together.

If you only read one book this year...

...make it this one. I have thousands of books, I'm a chronic reader....this book is Special. Written with warm heart and acute intelligence, wit and reserve, pathos and philosophy, the book is an absolute jewel. With a spoon full of sugar, the pages turn easily; and without ever once taking the podium, Thomas King makes each one of his readers a smarter, richer person. A Mozart with words.... may he live long and write continuously!
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