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The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,599 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
Winner of the 2003 Trillium Book Award

"Stories are wondrous things," award-winning author and scholar Thomas King declares in his 2003 CBC Massey Lectures. "And they are dangerous."

Beginning with a traditional Native oral story, King weaves his way through literature and history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest, gracefully elucidating North Americ
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by House of Anansi Press
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Mar 10, 2013 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, essays
“There is a story I know. It’s about the earth and how it floats in space on the back of a turtle. I’ve heard this story many times, and each time someone tells the story, it changes.” - Thomas King, The Truth About Stories

I realized that I had read a few of these CBC Massey lectures in a college lit class that focused on Native Canadian and American literature. It was really rewarding to re-read them after a relatively long interval as I have learned more Native Canadian history in the interi
I loved this book - picked it up on a whim and ended up completely beguiled by the beautiful phrasing, the gorgeous stories, and the fantastically sharp cultural analysis.

King begins and ends all but one chapter in the same way, with the same words, instilling a sense of continuity and thoughtfulness in the text, and forcing the reader to consider stories from a new angle. (Am I losing my mind? Didn't the last chapter start this way? Wait, this is the same ending . . . Oh, I see what he's doing
May 22, 2015 Helle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing insight into the concept of storytelling and how imaginative and manipulative stories can be. More specifically, the book provides a profound insight into how stories have shaped the mythology surrounding North American Indians – for better or for worse.

I was of course familiar with some of the historical aspects; how North American Indians have been the victims of a crime against humanity that was, and to some extent still is, so heinous that it doesn’t bear thinking about (if it
At every encounter, King has knocked me off my feet. I was tickled up and down my sides by my first introduction to Coyote, in Green Grass Running Water. I lost my breath as I blathered through our first meeting in Eden Mills. And a lump caught in my throat, with warm little tears in my eyes, as I read The Truth About Stories. Politically charged and beautifully woven, King provides personal and national accounts of the ways in which stories have affected Canadians lives. Peoples lives. Native l ...more
The truth about stories is that that's all we are

Here are stories tumbled out variously conversational, oratory and literary. King hands them over, generously, and reminds me that they cannot be unread; they go with me now, marks on my chest. I feel them swirl about me like a cloak, keeping out no weather, but turning back temptations to hard-heartedness and despair

He starts by comparing a Native creation myth, which presents a universe governed by co-operations that celebrate equality and balan
Jan 24, 2010 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in literature, indigenous studies, history
Recommended to Caroline by: My lecturer in Indigenous Writing in English
Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories is a narrative of Native stories, told from a Native American perspective. The book is a collection of stories told in part, from a mythological view, which is overlayed with historical and social content. The stories include humour to help alleviate the terrible injustices that occurred during the colonial period .
King opens each chapter with an anecdote of his travels around America as an Indigenous academic. He narrates the Native American Creation story
5.0 Culture, stories, history, Native Americans, philosophy and self-reflection: this book had so many things I absolutely love. I enjoyed the author's voice, clever literary devices, sarcasm, and his weaving of the struggles of Native American identity with the telling of stories. Ultimately King outlined how the idea of telling stories helps explain the creation of our world's acceptance of its own moral corruption. The last chapter was so personal, unexpected, heartbreaking and so true. His c ...more

i'm having the most amazing, fortuitous confluence of literature in my life lately. i read this in way less than a day. it's short, colloquial, and paced the way many oral stories are. king is a brilliant man, a brilliant storyteller; and it helps that he's an interesting man with interesting experiences and interesting ideas.


there's no way for me to adequately express here
Danika at The Lesbrary
This is a re-read for me. There are a few books that I want to re-read even as I read it, and this is one of them. Such a quick read (or listen), but packed with so much, both about racism and Native history as well as the nature of storytelling.
Jan 02, 2016 Stas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in either post-colonialism, native americans and/or the effects of storytelling.
Shelves: political
Thomas King is a magician with stories. Take the stories he tells about his own life, for instance. They're yours. Do with them what you will. Tell them to others. Read them again, for a second or third time. Forget them. Write a book review on goodreads. But don't say in the years to come that you'd lived your life differently if only you had heard this story.

You've heard it now.

The paragraph above is stolen.I stole it from Thomas King's The Truth about Stories: a Native Narrative . It might
Aug 09, 2016 ManiacalBookUnicorn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 representati ...more
Mar 19, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
Wasn't going to mark this as read, since it isn't really a book (I listened to the lectures; this is a transcription of those lectures, minus King's voice, which I imagine leads to some confusion in parts if you're just reading this, because tone is important, and King references this importance), but there is a print-only afterword that changed my mind.
Feb 01, 2016 Annie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. The storytelling structure is seamlessly connected to the historical context and the chapter content. Brilliant.
Luc Séguin
King, ici, nous parle d'histoires. Comment elles nous construisent et construisent aussi notre perception de la réalité, de ce qui est perçu comme vrai. Histoires personnelles, histoires politiques inscrites dans la grande Histoire, histoires des Blancs très différentes des histoires autochtones, histoires imaginées par les écrivains, histoires racontées oralement ou par écrit.

Sujet idéal pour King, qui n'aime rien autant que laisser son esprit papillonner librement dans les thèmes qui lui sont
Jul 21, 2017 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable and thought provoking. Manages to outline quite complicated issues in an informative and accessible manner.
Mar 06, 2012 E.botts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories, is an engaging and honestly written piece that cleverly ties his personal journey of self-discovery with that of popular culture, and the politics of identity. While, this short piece could be considered an “easy read,” it is by no means easy in terms of the realities and subject matter that the author is illustrating. King begins each chapter with a Native creation story which works to connect each segment, and allows the reader to gain new insight and int ...more
Dorothy Hermary
A small book that provides a powerful punch. Be prepared to consider your own identity and your own stories.
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-nations
Thomas King tells elegant, eloquent stories in this collection that began its life as a series of radio lectures and kept its oral narrative form in print. All the chapters, as a good oral story should do, begin and end with slightly modified verisons of the same story component, but all make powerful and often poignant points about being Native in contemporary North America. Like all good story tellers, King is able to break off his narrative in ways that seem to disrupt the flow, only to weave ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
King writes a narrative of Native identity in Canada, and his form uses oral conventions like repetition and retelling of familiar stories. “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are” is a refrain that he repeats near the beginning of each chapter, after he retells, with a slight variation each time, the turtle story.

His voice is mild and moderated by a lifetime of experience, but he makes incisive and unflinching assessments of Canadian history. Like this one:

“They were sorry. Governme
Susanna Suchak
Dec 27, 2012 Susanna Suchak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you were a fan of Dead Dog Cafe, you may recognize the name Thomas King. He played straight man on the CBC radio series. He tells a story about the case being interviewed in this book which is actually a collection of the 2003 Massey Lectures which aired on CBC Radio's "Ideas" series. I enjoyed this book so much I'd like to own it. It's a great one to read aloud to a companion! LOL Inside joke.

King weaves magic as he tells stories. He tells a story the way those of us who are First Nations le
Kerry Lynn
My first Thomas King and definitely not my last. This book was such a pleasure to read; I found myself savouring each word and was never without a pencil and post-its to highlight passages I will inevitably return to again and again. King brings attention to many of the ingrained assumptions we hold, not only about Aboriginal people, but also to our assumptions about stories and how through the manner in which a story is told affects the value we place upon it. His words left me with much to ref ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Meck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Actually, yesterday is the second time I finished reading this book. It is SOOOO good! The premise of these essays/stories is that "story is all we are." How we live our lives depends on the story we are telling ourselves about that experience. In both the way he tells his stories and reflects on them and in the content of the stories and the reflections themselves, we are given critical insights into some fundamental differences between a Euro-Christian worldview and the worldview of indigenous ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Lesliemae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: decolonization
We commit acts of incomprehensible obliviousness and unparalleled violence everyday with a sniff and a shrug. White, colonizer, impervious. Trapped? Why do I feel so trapped to change? I want to start the next sentence with, "Oh the capital market system...", or "It's the system we live in..." or "Hegemony something or other..." But all of these structures of meaning and language acquisition were made by us, and are what effectively make us colonizers and impervious... so what gives? King provid ...more
Feb 03, 2017 Andree rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This was really interesting. I liked the near repetition at the start of every chapter, and I really liked the writing style. I liked some chapters better than others, obviously, but this whole thing is well worth reading.

2017 Reading Challenge - A book from a genre you don't normally read
Jan 07, 2017 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The point about stories: "Just 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."

Love this man and his writings. Excellent series of short chapters in storytelling.
Apr 08, 2016 Keighlagh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every Canadian, American, European, Native, Indigenous--every person should read this book. Do yourself and the world a favour. Share these stories.
Dec 21, 2010 Chinook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
"In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted - knowingly or unknowingly - in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaningless. if we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives. Ben Okri"

Before I tell you about reading Thomas King's book, I
Jul 06, 2017 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The truth about stories is that that's all we are."

This is a short book that packs a massive punch. Every chapter (or lecture depending on how you want to look at it) illuminates some aspect of the aboriginal experience in North America while highlighting the role of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and how they shape our beliefs, and in turn, our world.

I needed this book.

I haven't read something like it in at least a decade, and I don't know why. Maybe I drowned myself in other i
May 14, 2017 Sienna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being that this was originally a radio series which was transcribed for book format, I'm amazed at how well King's voice comes across on the page. Since reading the book, I've listened to the first episode in the radio series, and found it to sound nearly exactly how I thought it would. The pacing of the storytelling--both the traditional stories and the longer, more contemporary narrative--is perfectly balanced. King knows where to put his emphasis. Where to make his jokes. Where to guide your ...more
Mary Miiller
May 11, 2017 Mary Miiller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't deny that I enjoyed reading this, despite the fact that I didn't agree with everything that he said (there were actually things which upset me quite a bit due to how strong my disagreement was). Thomas King's writing style is absolutely gorgeous; without a doubt one of the best storytellers I've ever encountered. And, even though I disagreed with some of the points that he made, I found what he said fascinating and informative. This book was something I had to read for an English course ...more
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Thomas King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California and is of Cherokee, Greek and German descent. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of Utah in 1986. He is known for works in which he addresses the marginalization of American Indians, delineates "pan-Indian" concerns and histories, and attempts to abolish common stereotypes about Native Americans. He taught Native American Studies at the ...more
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“you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.” 20 likes
“The truth about stories is that that's all we are.” 9 likes
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