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The Truth about Stories

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,333 Ratings  ·  127 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 America'
ebook, 208 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by House of Anansi Press (first published November 1st 2003)
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Jan 19, 2014 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
May 27, 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
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
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
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.
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 29, 2009 h rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Mar 19, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 04, 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
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
Sep 07, 2015 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Robert Jersak
May 24, 2015 Robert Jersak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In early 2015, the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, MN, ran an exhibition of the work of Julie Buffalohead. Buffalohead's work is a pretty stunning blend of figurative and surrealist imagery, drawing from "animated" human and animal characters that populate Disney franchises as well as native folktales. Her work is a deeply personal, and often bitingly funny, exploration of walking between native and non-native worlds. The curator of the MMAA had prepared an essay for gallery visito ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had this book as a text book years ago, but we only read a chapter or two for the actual class and I had forgotten what it was exactly that I read, but I remembered I really liked it. I always wanted to read it start to finish, so I decided it would be my plane book for a really long flight I had to take. I got it done in about seven hours.

It was an amazing book, and I'd love to reread it AGAIN more slowly. It's about story telling, it's about King's own life, its about racism, its about Nativ
Rodney Likaku
If "The Truth About Stories" was an academic article or something in-between a commentary and scholarly paper I would have loved it.

But it is not--it was actually published as a book. Given--the book is small. But any book, even a small book, is too big for the point that King was trying to make. And, in fact, I can't help but feel that at the beginning of each chapter, King is not making the point he thinks he is making. Sort of like committing suicide to be "born again" type of poetic paradox.
Lauren Mcclusick
Sep 03, 2014 Lauren Mcclusick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
This book was depressing and satirical. I know that was the author's purpose because he wants you feel how he feels about the plight of the Native in North America but his accusatory tone, "You don;t like us", made me feel like I should feel guilty for things I didn't do or encourage. I have some Native blood, which in no way makes me a spokesperson or advocate by any means, but I did recognize all the negative things that have happened to Native people and this book did a good job of pulling ba ...more
Jan 22, 2014 L rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started to recognize a shift within myself, regarding my world view, I found myself guiding a wilderness trip in the Stein Valley. During that trip I had the honor of spending a number of days with a First Nations Representative and participating in a pipe ceremony and sweat lodge. It was one of the most profound experiences in my life. I've always thought of mythology and stories to be endearing and captivating and I've been intrigued by North American Oral Traditions. I found this book ...more
Nov 07, 2014 Kieran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If ever a book was to make you think about how the world is constructed to be as it is right now, this would be it. "The truth about stories is that's all we are" is a refrain throughout that really calls to mind how we construct reality through the stories we tell ourselves, we tell each other, and other people tell us. It's also a very powerful investigation into how Native Americans and Canadians have been marginalized since Europeans arrived up to the present day. It's told with humor and pe ...more
Jan 05, 2016 B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
B.E. McLaughlin
Jan 27, 2015 B.E. McLaughlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
King's writings is eloquent and downright perfection when it comes to his collection of stories above. The comical tone overwrites the deep meanings giving escape from the rather dark themes that he can write out. The idea of Aboriginal people and how people are viewed is heartbreaking, while abrasively true. King hasn't written this as a light coffee house read but to really make his audience think of the blatant racism that still stands in the America's (especially Canada to the natives) today ...more
Emily Onufer
Dec 17, 2014 Emily Onufer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas King examines the nature of stories and how that is influenced by human nature in this novel. King intertwines his own analysis of storytelling with traditional Native stories that he heard growing up and now tells to others. The work culminates in a fascinating look at how these storytelling methods and habits have influenced the role of Indians in modern-day American culture.

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” 2

“For once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once
Jun 02, 2013 Michal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
As you might expect from the subtitle, The Truth about Stories is about the interactions and contradictions between stories about Native Americans by the settler population and those told by Native Americans about themselves. The construction of Native identity has, in no small part, been dictated from the outside, to the point where the “true Indian” of the American Romantics displaced the self-identity of Native peoples. The “dying Indian” motif wrote the living Indians out of the North Americ ...more
Tylor Lovins
Jan 31, 2013 Tylor Lovins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wonderful collection of lectures by Thomas King is a very useful exploration of the power of stories. He is an Indian who has a critical eye not only toward culture but also toward himself. He is brutally honest and genuine. I think this book will be useful for anyone that wants to explore the question of meaning and how stories/language operate not only as 'vehicles of meaning' but also as constitutive of 'meaning-formation.'

King makes a claim early in the text that stories can ‘cure’ or ‘
Oct 29, 2013 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
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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.” 22 likes
“The truth about stories is that that's all we are.” 8 likes
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