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The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America [Hardcover]

Thomas King
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 13 2012

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
 
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
 
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope -- a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.


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Review

Nominated for the Canadian Booksellers Association Non-Fiction Book of the Year
FINALIST 2013 – Trillium Award
FINALIST 2013 – Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction

The Inconvenient Indian may well be unsettling for many non-natives in this country to read. This is exactly why we all should read it. Especially now.”
Vancouver Sun

“[The Inconvenient Indian is] couched in a plainspoken forthrightness that shocks as often as it demystifies. . . . It is essential reading for everyone who cares about Canada and who seeks to understand native people, their issues and their dreams. . . . Thomas King is beyond being a great writer and storyteller, a lauded academic and educator. He is a towering intellectual. For native people in Canada, he is our Twain; wise, hilarious, incorrigible, with a keen eye for the inconsistencies that make us and our society flawed, enigmatic, but ultimately powerful symbols of freedom. The Inconvenient Indian is less an indictment than a reassurance that we can create equality and harmony. A powerful, important book.”
The Globe and Mail

The Inconvenient Indian is a book of stories with a lot of history in it. It may well be the best analysis of how Native people have existed, and still exist, in North America. . . . What a gift this book is. What gratitude we owe this wise and gracious and frisky writer. . . . Even if you think you know North American Aboriginal history, you will be richly engaged by the stories [King] tells. And if you don’t know it, this is a fine place to begin.”
The Chronicle Journal

“Sharply intellectual and informative, yet humourous and delightfully human, King unearths the myths and misunderstandings about Aboriginal peoples – and there is certainly a lot to dig up. If it’s an act of solidarity and outstanding creative non-fiction you’re after, get yourself a copy of The Inconvenient Indian.”
—Amber Dawn, National Post

“Every Canadian should read Thomas King’s new book, The Inconvenient Indian. . . . It’s funny, it’s readable, and it makes you think. If you have any kind of a social conscience, The Inconvenient Indian will also make you angry.”
Toronto Star

“King uses stories to turn history upside down. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he presents history with a candour and honesty rarely found in usual accounts of the interaction of aboriginals and non-aboriginals.”
The Winnipeg Free Press

“What makes it all palatable, and at times nearly pleasurable, is King’s gift of irony. He’s a master of the lethal one-liner. . . .  King wants to make his readers smile even as they wince. . . . This book includes painful reminders of the huge injustices done to Indians in the past. It also sets out a few reasons why the future may be better.”
Calgary Herald

“Brilliantly insightful. . . . Humour aside, this is an unflinching, occasionally fierce work. Natives are often chided for dwelling too much on the past, yet if this book proves anything, it’s that it behooves all of us to do a lot more of exactly that.”
Quill & Quire

The Inconvenient Indian [is] a remarkable narrative of native culture, policy, and history in North America. It’s also a powerful reality check.”
The Hill Times

“Subversive, entertaining, well-researched, hilarious [and] enraging. . . . In this thoughtful, irascible account, and in characteristically tricksterish mode, King presents a provocative alternative version of Canada’s heritage narrative.”
—RBC Taylor Prize Jury

The Inconvenient Indian exposes and makes accessible, perhaps for the first time, our perspective of events that have shaped this continent. King is reclaiming our true lived experience in the tradition of our storytellers and artists. He brings humour, razor sharp analysis and insight, compelling every reader to confront the uncomfortable and urgent reality of our peoples today. His voice makes a fundamental contribution to the effort required to engage in understanding and respect for a dignified and just way forward for all who today call this land home.”
—National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
 
"Fascinating, often hilarious, always devastatingly truthful, The Inconvenient Indian is destined to become a classic of historical narrative. For those who wish to better understand Native peoples, it is a must read. For those who don't wish to understand, it is even more so."
—Joseph Boyden
 
“Not since Eduardo Galeano's astonishing trilogy, Memory of Fire, have I read an account of European contact and the Amerindian experience as  full of wit, compassion, humour, irony and pathos as this wonderful and brilliant new book by Thomas King. At moments I found myself laughing aloud, at others wiping a tear from my eye.”
—Wade Davis

“A book of incredible range and genius. From the iconography of the ‘Indian,’ sedimented in everyday objects from butter to missiles, to the ongoing economic war waged against First Nations peoples across North America, Thomas King is magisterial in this devastating and comprehensive dissection of history, contemporary politics and culture. His analysis is incisive, the seam of irony running through his prose, as affable as a filet knife.”
—Dionne Brand


About the Author

THOMAS KING is one of Canada's premier Native public intellectuals. For the past five decades, he has worked as an activist for Native causes, as an administrator in Native programs, and has taught Native literature and history at universities in the U.S. and Canada. King was the first Aboriginal person to deliver the prestigious Massey Lectures, and is also the bestselling, award-winning author of five novels and two collections of short stories.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red and White blues Dec 30 2012
By Ken Kardash TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Living in the generation of the 500th anniversaries of various European "settlements" of North America, I have always wondered about the story from the point of view of those who were here first. From the cover and subtitle I had the impression that the focus of this book would be early contact between invading and native cultures throughout North America. Instead, the scope is broader in time and narrower in geography. This is not a criticism, but for those more interested in the former angle on things, Charles Mann's 1491 and 1493 are pretty hard to beat.

Thomas King sets out to convey what the long history of European "settlement", right up to the present day, feels like from an Indian's point of view. As he points out in the Preface, his is not a scholarly dissertation and is free of footnotes. This is why, at his wife's urging we are told, the word "account" replaced "history" in the subtitle. A master storyteller, he uses instead an anecdotal, conversational style that carries the reader back and forth across the Canada - U.S border and the centuries. His justifiable rage at the litany of mistreatments and abuses of Indians is palpable. What saves the book from being unreadably depressing are his comically sarcastic interjections, which had me laughing out loud at times despite myself. The only improvement would have been to take another of his wife's suggestions and avoid indulging in occasional detailed lists of atrocities. These break the narrative flow that is more powerful when he fleshes out selected incidents in human detail, like the murder of Indian youths by police officers in modern-day Saskatoon.

Because of his breezy style, I felt swept along despite the difficult subject matter.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-opener, Must Read! Dec 15 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Again, Tom King shows us both sides of the box - the inside and the outside. This book is essential reading for all thoughtful citizens of North America. Information-packed but very readable, the book is woven throughout by Tom King's wit. Every page has something you just must read aloud or share somehow. A real gem! I finished the book with a feeling of hope that perhaps if enough people read it, the world will change for the better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ FOR EVERYONE Feb. 25 2013
By Cam
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Tom King's account of Whites and Indians (a term he prefers to use) is brilliant and brutally candid. Tom also has a good sense of humour and uses it throughout the book. He is direct, a master of satire and clearly eager to both keep your interest and have you learn about the conflicts that began and still exist between Indians and Whites.

His book inspired me to be a more understanding human being. May it inspire you.

I strongly feel that this book should be mandatory reading for all Canadians.

It is absolutely necessary and long overdue for Whites, like you and me, to finally understand, respect and honour all of our obligations to our First Nations people.

We have far too long disrespected Indian culture and heritage.

We, in Canada, took their children away from their homes and sent them to horrible residential schools to get rid of their language and culture. We defined what we considered to be an Indian.

We have shown further racism by telling them where they should live and how they should behave.

All of our actions have done a lot of damage to their self-esteem.

Read this book and you will better understand yourself and First Nations people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " The Convenient Writer" July 19 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading Thomas King's "The Inconvenient Indian" a very insightful view on how North Americans, both native and non native have come to this place at this time...now.
It was written by a native and his opinions and arguments are extremely well thought out (6 years in research and writing) and he has managed to lay it all out in such a way that will keep you turning pages. Riddled with humorous anecdotes and undeniable facts he weaves the plight of the natives in a real and understandable way that few, if any, have to date.
I believe that if this book were put into the school curriculum, future generations might well be better equipped to negotiate more amicably as ongoing and future treaties are dealt with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and accessible Jan. 5 2013
By JP
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is educational and Thomas King's writing makes it accessible to everyone. It has the same humor and wit of King's other books, such as the Truth About Stories and Green Grass Running Water. It provides an account of colonialism in North America and of how this has shaped contemporary relations between First Nations and Non Natives. I strongly recommend this book to anyone that would like to learn about colonialism in North America.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read Dec 6 2012
Format:Hardcover
This was an excellent book to read. It started out with lots of humour and eventually became very angry. Thomas King did an interview on the radio show at the Edge of Canada about his book and he explains why it is so important to re-look at colonial history and the popular images we have of FN people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead, live and legal May 29 2013
By bookweasel TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is not a history of the Native American but is more in the nature of a long essay or series thereof on the place of the Indian in North America. The author draws on various facts, sources and his own experience and weaves together where he believes that place is. It is not a good place for most Indians. The book is well written in an almost conversational style that moves the reader along. It is interesting and though it contains nothing new by way of facts it draws them together to illustrate the authors feelings and point of view. For those of us who are leery of Government there is much here to vindicate our wariness.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You should read this book
To get to the point quickly, this story was a real eye opener for me. For all the good will and open mindedness there is no substitute for hearing the story "from the other... Read more
Published 1 day ago by helena
5.0 out of 5 stars And Now - The rest of the Story.
My wife and I used to await Saturday mornings to hear the latest adventures of Jasper Running Bear and Gracie Heavy Hands and Tom at the Dead Dog Cafe. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Robert A. Johnson
2.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like this book.
I really wanted to like this book. I love reading about history and feel tremendous shame at the treatment of native people so I had expected to be intrigued and sympathetic. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Mia Wilkinson
2.0 out of 5 stars A book of facts and statistics.
Too much statistics and not so much story telling. If you like fact without fiction then you may like it.
Published 11 days ago by Leland Harms
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 or 5 stars
This is a great book to open your mind to the Aboriginal perspective. I had no idea of some of the injustices... although very familiar with many disturbing events! Read more
Published 27 days ago by Tammy McLeod
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
One of the most important books I have ever read. On any suject. And I'm not even Indian!
Finely written. the perfect tone of voice.
Published 1 month ago by Carlos Ferrand
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative
I found this book very informative. I also like the "voice" of Thomas King. This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time.
Published 1 month ago by Susanne Nielsen
3.0 out of 5 stars A curiously interesting and frustrating account
Undoubtedly, those who pay little attention to history need to read this book. And that covers 90% of us, doesn't it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rodge
5.0 out of 5 stars Inconvenient Indians
A great book for anyone who wants to know the history of native/white relations in
North America, with details of just how the natives were moved from place to place to make... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bill Haddacks
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read!
Not often is a book so good and pertinent to EVERYONE, but this very readable and often both humorous and ironic writing of the intertwining of the original peoples of North... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Allan Grundahl
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