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The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative (Massey Lectures) [Paperback]

Thomas King
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press (Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887846963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887846960
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 12.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,198,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Explores the ties between Native American culture and storytelling, from creation stories to personal experiences, historical anecdotes to social injustices, and racist propaganda to works of contemporary Native American literature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are we? 25 Sep 2008
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
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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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories can change your life 10 Oct 2005
By p0km - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master Storyteller 5 Mar 2006
By Ray Evans Harrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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. )
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power and Meaning of Stories 24 Aug 2005
By J. M. Hannam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Oft times we don't realize how important stories are in our lives. Each day is a new story we live, a new story to share with someone. Thomas King (the author) hits the nail on the head through his notion of stories as a means to change ones life.

Each chapter begins and ends the same, with a short ancedote, something King can call his own. What falls inbetween ranges from personal to historical stories, all with pertinence and value.

King portrays the significance of stories and how they can be overlooked and ignored. Stories are one of the foundations of how we live our lives. Each story has the opportunity to shape and/or change ones life. Enjoy King's story and share your own with others.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are we? 25 Sep 2008
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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 the long-term impact of the legislation is closely examined by King in the lecture "What is it about us that you don't like?" and that title proves symptomatic. The Indians don't know and the whites haven't even asked the question. It must be asked and clearly answered.

King concludes the series with an essay on "Private stories". While those might seem out of place here, the author shows how small, personal tales have long-reaching implications. A "private story" almost certainly carries elements that have meaning to each of us. He concludes each story by asking whether you think your life might have followed a different path if you'd only heard this story earlier. "You've heard it now" he says, throwing down the gauntlet to challenge the reader to consider what changes in your life to make now. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth in stories 2 Aug 2010
By Louise - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
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