The Truth About Stories by Thomas King (thoughts)
Honestly, this is my internal monologue re: The Truth About Stories:
OMG, I heart Thomas King so, so much. I thought I couldn’t love him anymore! But now I do! So much truth telling and pathos and god damned awesomeness! But why wasn’t it three times as long?! I lurved it so much I never wanted it to end!
Ahem. But that isn’t quite the proper blogging form, is it? ;)
Thomas King is a Native American author, dual citizen of the US and Canada, and all-around incredible writer. I’ve read four of his novels and loved them all; his mastery of different styles reminds me of Neil Gaiman. The Truth About Stories is an essay collection in which King meditates on narratives, perceptions of Native Americans, and the deep power stories hold. Sadly, I had to ILL my copy, which means I had to return it ages ago and thus don’t have it next to me to refer to as I write this post. But here’s a taste:
Did you ever wonder how it is we imagine the world the way we do, how it is we imagine ourselves, if not through our stories. And in the English-speaking world, nothing could be easier, for we are surrounded by stories, and we can trace those stories back to other stories and from there back to the beginnings of language. For these are our stories, the cornerstones of our culture.
Part of what makes this book work so well is that King shows as much as he tells. Each chapter begins with the same story, told in a slightly different way by an oral story teller to a slightly different audience: watching it morph while reading the same basic thing several times was a wonderful way to feel the difference between oral and written stories. And each chapter ends with the same line, which gains power at each repetition:
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.
By the end, it was giving me goosebumps. Meanwhile, King looks at the dysfunctional relationship white North Americans have had with Native Americans in a way that is loving but doesn’t shy away from the hard, racist truths. He manages to analyse white privilege without alienating white readers, and thus I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone, regardless of their previous awareness of race and privilege. He uses the same gift he has in fiction, to present a truth that transcends differences and unites with the reader while never losing touch with the specificities of individual humans and the societies they live in, but this time in nonfiction.
I’m aware I’m speaking in almost uselessly general sentences. But The Truth About Stories is the kind of book that deserves to be read and reread: not for its own sake but for the reader’s. I adored it, as much for the moments it made me sob as those that made laugh, and just writing this post makes me want to read it again. Clearly, I need to buy a copy for myself, since my library doesn’t have an easily accessible one. And anyone who loves stories enough to read a book blog should go read this too, as quickly as they can get their hands on a copy.