*This review is SPOILER FREE*
Well, it would seem that here in the land beyond the rainbow, Tuesdays are slowly becoming this-was-completely-out-of-my-reading-comfort-zone-but-I-liked-it day. Although tedious, I insist that the newly renamed day (formerly known as Tuesday) be sung to the melody of I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry or Can’t Feel my Face by The Weeknd.
The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative by Thomas King is a collection of essays that were originally orally presented as part of the CBC Massey Lectures Series in 2003. It contains five chapters, each an essay from the lecture series, and also contains an afterword that is written by King himself. King’s essays, collected in print, in The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative went on to win the Trillium Book Award for the year of 2003.
After only the first 186 words, on the twentieth line (yes, this manic unicorn counted that by hoof) the words that have stuck with me appear for the first time. Although this particular combination of words will be repeated throughout the text, you never really forget how it sweetly approached you, left you in sweet contemplation, then turned around and hit you in the face with some left jabs that would make the late Muhammed Ali proud. King states, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” That quote pretty much sums up the overall running theme through the book. Oh, how I have stressed, sweat and cried many a unicorn tear trying to effectively ‘synopsis-ify’ this book in a way that made it seem so appealing that you had to sink your literary teeth into it and take a bite of its sweet flesh. But, I eventually realized that the best synopsis branches off from the quote above.
Throughout the text Thomas King aids us in realizing that everything’s truth is story. We are stories, we tell stories, we hear stories, we are shaped by stories, we are defined and categorized by stories. The stories that we believe and know, of ourselves, may not be the stories others tell and have heard of us. And how do these stories change and inspire how we feel about ourselves as individuals and who others believe us to be? Does your self-identity conflict with the stories of past and present? Are you identified differently by agents of law and government and the everyday person based on these stories? These are just a few questions that you will ask yourself and that you will ask about Native culture while you read King’s captivating words.
One of the greatest accomplishments in the book is that King is able to effectively and beautifully weave together different times, settings, people and stories with Native culture. He explores different “truths” and “stories” about Native peoples and brilliantly shows how these stories affect the perception others have of them. King covers a range of topics such as creation stories, family, self- and cultural-identity, the portrayal of Native peoples as entertainment and also their representation in media, and most importantly oral storytelling. The experience of reading this book is memorable in and of itself, but the ideas King presents are mind-blowing. The way that he tells different stories that flow from one to another and that come together to make an important point is masterful, and I can’t recall another author/storyteller that is able to accomplish that as skillfully as he is able to. I love the fact that King doesn’t preach to you, he tells these stories and then instructs us at the end of every chapter to interpret it how we would like, reminding us that now that we have heard/read these stories, they are now ours and a part of us.
I could not sing (or croak out, in my case) enough praises for The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative by Thomas King. It’s honestly one of the best things I HAVE EVER READ! I don’t read much non-fiction (honestly it’s about one every 5 years lol), but I imagine that I want all of my non-fiction reading experiences to be as strong as it was when I read this book. It will make you laugh hysterically, do some serious self reflection, make you contemplate how you contribute to the world, and in more than one place King’s words will wrap around your heart and squeeze. It is a true 10 out of 10 read for me because there are just so many things that I respect and admire about this text. I would recommend this book to E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E, and not in the cop-out kinda way where I couldn’t decide or narrow down the type of reader that would like this book best! But I recommend this book to all of humanity because the words and messages contained within far outweigh the possibility of you hating it. If anything in this review piqued your interest, I highly encourage you to give this book a try. It may just become your next favorite read!