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The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative [Hardcover]

Thomas King
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 2005 Indigenous Americas (Book 1)
"Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous." In The Truth About Stories, Native novelist and scholar Thomas King explores how stories shape who we are and how we understand and interact with other people. From creation stories to personal experiences, historical anecdotes to social injustices, racist propaganda to works of contemporary Native literature, King probes Native culture's deep ties to storytelling. With wry humor, King deftly weaves events from his own life as a child in California, an academic in Canada, and a Native North American with a wide-ranging discussion of stories told by and about Indians. So many stories have been told about Indians, King comments, that "there is no reason for the Indian to be real. The Indian simply has to exist in our imaginations." That imaginative Indian that North Americans hold dear has been challenged by Native writers - N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louis Owens, Robert Alexie, and others - who provide alternative narratives of the Native experience that question, create a present, and imagine a future. King reminds the reader, Native and non-Native, that storytelling carries with it social and moral responsibilties. "Don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You've heard it now."

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From Booklist

Trust a novelist and English professor to get to the heart of how stories and storytelling shape our perceptions. Oral stories, King asserts, are public, requiring interaction with an audience. Gathering oral stories into book form compromises the narratives; once set on the page, a story loses its context and voice. And written stories are usually private; no matter how many people read a particular book, each person reads that story as an individual. While King primarily considers narratives by and about Indians, his unusual treatise also includes coverage of a lengthy stay in New Zealand, identity politics, Native American history, and the experience of being the only middle-aged member of an amateur basketball team. Ultimately, King exhorts listeners to accept the responsibility of stories, writing, "Take it. It's yours. Do with it what you will. But don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You've heard it now." This is a wonderful study of the power of words. Rebecca Maksel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


...contemporary, necessary, urgent. And very, very funny. His is humour at its best, deadly serious, the ultimate defence against overwhelming odds. -- The Edmonton Journal

If you like Thomas King already, and you should, this is essential reading -- Anna Bowness, Broken Pencil

King is a master storyteller and master writer...I can only say your life will be different if you read these [stories]. -- Ellen Bielawski, The Edmonton Journal

King's ...Massey Lectures illustrate how native culture's deep ties to storytelling have much to teach others about human understanding -- Winnipeg Free Press

[King's speculations and observations] appear in a witty, engaging, thought-provoking, and discomfiting form. Required reading for all. -- Bill Robertson, Saskatoon Star Phoenix --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are we? Sept. 25 2008
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book's title says it all. Feb. 6 2013
This is a book that is exactly what it promises to be, a native narrative. As Thomas King states after his opening story: "The truth about stories is that that's all we are."
Well this is one man's story, and the stories he's heard. It's an imparting of how Thomas King has seen his corner of the Native World. It's a small part of a larger narrative from a man who's spent a life-time thinking about what exactly it means to be Native in the world today.
So, you'll take this story and garner what wisdom you can from it, and perhaps come back to it some day to see if something else can't be seen. It's a story given (relatively) freely.
I can only hope you enjoy and appreciate it as much as I did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book and be awakened. Feb. 6 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is amazing, beautiful, shocking, humorous, smart, tough, gentle. Anyone interested in Native North Americans would find much to learn here. With an unusual lyrical style, Thomas King makes us think. He shows us the stereotypes. He will leave a big hole when he retires from teaching Native Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. I have read this book three times and each time come away refreshed and awakened.
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