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The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  2,739 ratings  ·  259 reviews
"Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous." In The Truth About Stories, Native novelist and scholar Thomas King explores how stories shape who we are and how we understand and interact with other people. From creation stories to personal experiences, historical anecdotes to social injustices, racist propaganda to works of contemporary Native literature, King pro
Hardcover, 184 pages
Published March 2nd 2005 by Univ Of Minnesota Press (first published November 1st 2003)
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Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, canada
“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
Dec 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
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 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably my favorite book that I have been required to read for school. Thomas King is clearly a born storyteller. He weaves sarcasm, criticism, optimism and personality into what is truly a work of art. Every chapter of this book left me speechless at the end, and it took me a while to really take in the stories that he told. 'The Truth About Stories' dives into subjects that are often left alone and pushed away for other easier topics. King approaches things like racism and discriminat ...more
Emily Hays
I listened to the actual lecture the book is a transcript of. And considering the content, I think that's the best way to consume these stories. I did, however, read the story at the end: the one King intended to be read and not listened to.
I think King did a fantastic job narrating the stories in his lecture. He makes great points about differing Indigenous cultures, as well as those cultures compared to Western/Christian cultures. It was also refreshing to see a man's perspective on women tha
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing

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
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
My late father was an Anishnaabe/Swiss son of a war bride and a native soldier. He was a schoolteacher who was a great father, role model and mentor. After he passed, my siblings and I cleaned out his personal affects and we came across a near complete collection of Thomas King books. After reading this short volume I can see why my father was a fan of this work. King has done a wonderful job of sharing his insights on the nature and scope of storytelling. I can’t wait to read the rest of the co ...more
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 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. ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. The storytelling structure is seamlessly connected to the historical context and the chapter content. Brilliant.
Friederike Knabe
I read the book, five essays based on the Massey Lectures 2003, at the time of publication. Listening now, in 2020, to Thomas King's lectures is like a new experience. So much more powerful and engaging than I remember. Probably or most likely, I have changed as a listener and I have much more about the issues he addresses in his lectures. ...more
What a wonderful story teller.

Read this book.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2011 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
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2016 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
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
susanna suchak
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Melinda Worfolk
I assigned this for my First Peoples Literature course--we read and discussed one chapter every couple of weeks, and my students absolutely loved it. Some read the paper version; some listened to the audio version of King's Massey Lectures broadcast on CBC Radio. You can find them all on the CBC website, and even if you choose to read the book rather than listen to it, I do recommend listening to at least one of the lectures. King is a fantastic storyteller with a great voice and a great style. ...more
Steve Graham
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent meditation on storytelling and authenticity and who we are, expressed from a Native American perspective. I don't think it is possible to read this book without reflecting on context and perspective as it relates to storytelling -- particularly in the context of our own stories. The book is well written and the author is both informed and sensitive. I would recommend it for anyone who likes to think about story. Anyone interested in Native American writing might find it wor ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good friend of mine and I got into a friendly argument via social media recently (yes, it’s possible to stay friendly on the internet!). My friend is of Native American descent and I’m a white guy and these backgrounds certainly play into our perspectives. She gave me this book, telling me it was a good one to read to get more in touch with the Native perspective. I read it this past week; it’s not a long book and King is a wonderful writer. I’m not sure if it had much to do with what we were ...more
Sep 02, 2014 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. This book did a good job of pulling back the illusions that we, as a country, have fabricated to excuse our behavior to native people. I would not really recommend this book to anyone because most people would get ...more
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such an important and poignant read. Through the use of storytelling, King provides an insightful view into Native culture and living. The short book starts off with an attention-grabbing Native story which pulled me in. King explores the difference between perception and reality through many short stories and leaves the reader to decide what the reader will do with this information. This native narrative alludes to how manipulative stories can be and what we, as consumers of these stori ...more
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
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Thomas King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California and is of Cherokee, Greek and German descent. He obtained his PhD 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 U ...more

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
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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.” 33 likes
“The truth about stories is that that's all we are.” 17 likes
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