Thomas King,
The Truth About Stories
(Anansi, 2003)

"The truth about stories is that that's all we are."
- Thomas King

Thomas King looks at the world in what most people would call an upside-down way. This is a book of and about stories. It is about the way the narratives we know and believe in shape our lives and our choices. It's a quick read, but an important one.

This little book was the 2003 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Massey Lecture. King, who teaches in Guelph, Ontario (near Toronto), is of Cherokee and Greek descent and was born in California. His lecture -- this book -- is about personal stories, world creation stories and everything in between.

The North American native creation story, he says, is one of a world determined by cooperation while the Genesis story, the one Europeans believed for centuries, is one marked by competition. The competition story, then, is the one he holds responsible for the "insatiable material desires" of many of us, "chasing progress to the grave."

He also discusses the image of the native through legislation in both Canada and the U.S. determining who is, and who is not, an "Indian," written versus oral literature, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and a host of other topics. There's a story behind everything.

It's a short, but poignant, reminder that the stories we tell determine what we think, and who we are. To paraphrase King, don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you heard someone recommend this book. You've heard it now.

by David Cox
10 February 2007

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