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The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America Paperback – Aug. 13 2013
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Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope--a sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.
WINNER 2015 – CBC Bookie Awards - Non-Fiction
WINNER 2014 – RBC Taylor Prize
WINNER 2013 – Canadian Booksellers Association Non-Fiction Book of the Year
FINALIST 2014 – Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2013 – Trillium Award
“King is a Canadian icon . . . The Inconvenient Indian is labeled a history book but it is about Canada today. I suggest teachers include a copy in every school classroom. It made me a better Canadian and more compassionate person.”
—Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children, defending The Inconvenient Indian at Canada Reads 2015
"Thomas King is funny. And ironic, sarcastic, clever and witty. His writing style is direct, offbeat and accessible. . . . [The Inconvenient Indian is] a riveting, sweeping narrative that illuminates, horrifies, stupefies and educates. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the enormous divide that persists between many aboriginals and non-aboriginals."
“The Inconvenient Indian may well be unsettling for many non-natives in this country to read. This is exactly why we all should read it. Especially now.”
“[The Inconvenient Indian is] couched in a plainspoken forthrightness that shocks as often as it demystifies. . . . It is essential reading for everyone who cares about Canada and who seeks to understand native people, their issues and their dreams. . . . Thomas King is beyond being a great writer and storyteller, a lauded academic and educator. He is a towering intellectual. For native people in Canada, he is our Twain; wise, hilarious, incorrigible, with a keen eye for the inconsistencies that make us and our society flawed, enigmatic, but ultimately powerful symbols of freedom. The Inconvenient Indian is less an indictment than a reassurance that we can create equality and harmony. A powerful, important book.”
—The Globe and Mail
“The Inconvenient Indian is a book of stories with a lot of history in it. It may well be the best analysis of how Native people have existed, and still exist, in North America. . . . What a gift this book is. What gratitude we owe this wise and gracious and frisky writer. . . . Even if you think you know North American Aboriginal history, you will be richly engaged by the stories [King] tells. And if you don’t know it, this is a fine place to begin.”
—The Chronicle Journal
“Sharply intellectual and informative, yet humourous and delightfully human, King unearths the myths and misunderstandings about Aboriginal peoples – and there is certainly a lot to dig up. If it’s an act of solidarity and outstanding creative non-fiction you’re after, get yourself a copy of The Inconvenient Indian.”
—Amber Dawn, National Post
“Every Canadian should read Thomas King’s new book, The Inconvenient Indian. . . . It’s funny, it’s readable, and it makes you think. If you have any kind of a social conscience, The Inconvenient Indian will also make you angry.”
“King uses stories to turn history upside down. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he presents history with a candour and honesty rarely found in usual accounts of the interaction of aboriginals and non-aboriginals.”
—The Winnipeg Free Press
“What makes it all palatable, and at times nearly pleasurable, is King’s gift of irony. He’s a master of the lethal one-liner. . . . King wants to make his readers smile even as they wince. . . . This book includes painful reminders of the huge injustices done to Indians in the past. It also sets out a few reasons why the future may be better.”
“Brilliantly insightful. . . . Humour aside, this is an unflinching, occasionally fierce work. Natives are often chided for dwelling too much on the past, yet if this book proves anything, it’s that it behooves all of us to do a lot more of exactly that.”
—Quill & Quire
“The Inconvenient Indian [is] a remarkable narrative of native culture, policy, and history in North America. It’s also a powerful reality check.”
—The Hill Times
“Subversive, entertaining, well-researched, hilarious [and] enraging. . . . In this thoughtful, irascible account, and in characteristically tricksterish mode, King presents a provocative alternative version of Canada’s heritage narrative.”
—RBC Taylor Prize Jury
“The Inconvenient Indian exposes and makes accessible, perhaps for the first time, our perspective of events that have shaped this continent. King is reclaiming our true lived experience in the tradition of our storytellers and artists. He brings humour, razor sharp analysis and insight, compelling every reader to confront the uncomfortable and urgent reality of our peoples today. His voice makes a fundamental contribution to the effort required to engage in understanding and respect for a dignified and just way forward for all who today call this land home.”
—National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
"Fascinating, often hilarious, always devastatingly truthful, The Inconvenient Indian is destined to become a classic of historical narrative. For those who wish to better understand Native peoples, it is a must read. For those who don't wish to understand, it is even more so."
“Not since Eduardo Galeano's astonishing trilogy, Memory of Fire, have I read an account of European contact and the Amerindian experience as full of wit, compassion, humour, irony and pathos as this wonderful and brilliant new book by Thomas King. At moments I found myself laughing aloud, at others wiping a tear from my eye.”
“A book of incredible range and genius. From the iconography of the ‘Indian,’ sedimented in everyday objects from butter to missiles, to the ongoing economic war waged against First Nations peoples across North America, Thomas King is magisterial in this devastating and comprehensive dissection of history, contemporary politics and culture. His analysis is incisive, the seam of irony running through his prose, as affable as a filet knife.”
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
- Publisher : Anchor Canada (Aug. 13 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385664222
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385664226
- Item weight : 322 g
- Dimensions : 13.16 x 2.29 x 20.29 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in Canada on January 18, 2023
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I have duly followed my friend's excellent advice, and I have finished the King book & marked key parts for reference. I am also jumping around enjoying FLINT AND FEATHER: THE COMPLETE POEMS OF E. PAULINE JOHNSON (TEKAHIONWAKE). In the back of my mind, while I'm absorbing the King & Johnson books, is another relevant work I read a few years ago, not long after it was published, A FAIR COUNTRY by John Ralston Saul. Saul is a White man (a term King uses), & his book is more formal & limited in scope than King's, but with a very central & interesting thesis.
So this is a real reading mash-up, which should answer the smaller questions, for me at least, about Johnson's poetic & political legacy & modern relevance. But these books & authors will also help us to frame the much larger issues facing Canadian society, & even the planet. With global climate change bearing down on our tiny blue marble with unforgiving speed, it may well be First Nations & their control of key territories which will help block & stop transnational pipelines, dams, reckless mining & other activities which are the key contributors to this human-caused planetary blight. Rethinking & reforging centuries old alliances among all Peoples is fast becoming a necessity for all human survival. It is obviously the duty of People's Poets to tailor our work & visions for the survival of our planet, or we won't have any future generations around to admire our brilliant poetics ; )
So shoot me for cribbing the following. It's been 3 or 4 years since I read A FAIR COUNTRY: TELLING TRUTHS ABOUT CANADA. This back cover blurb does a great job of summarizing John Ralston Saul's central thesis, & it's in his own words:
We are a people of aboriginal inspiration organized around a concept of peace, fairness and good government. That is what lies at the heart of our story; at the heart of Canadian mythology, whether Francophone or Anglophone. If we can embrace a language that expresses that story, we will feel a great release. We will discover a remarkable power to act and to do so in such a way that we will feel we are true to ourselves.
A central theme of THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN is land. Indians (King's preferred term for First Nations) have been & continue to be inconvenient because they are the original owners of North America. Although most of their territories and nations have been stolen through murder (genocide), forced relocations, deliberate poisonings & sickness, assimilation, Christianity & outright trickery & theft, large swathes of North America remain in the control of First Nations Peoples.
There are many other themes winding through King's blackly humorous historical account of Indian/White relations. King even has ironic fun describing three categories of Indians - those DEAD (e.g. prone to wearing headdresses & feathers), those LIVE (the most inconvenient & annoying, because, well, they're just too damn real & ubiquitous), and those who are LEGAL or STATUS.
It ain't happy but it is honest!
An author is mentioned by Mr. King by name of Karl May. All the adventures that May put to pen were of his imagination although he was astute in his descriptions of geographical areas, customs of people, etc. This author managed to write 65 books, some in prison, and an entire book of poetry. My father was kind enough to purchase all of them..........in the German language in which I was/am fluent. He said that these books should be read three times during three stages of life. The first as a kid to enjoy the adventures, then in the mid-30's to gain wisdom, lastly in old age to reminisce. This I did. The series of books titled WINNETOU involved an Indian noble and a white man nicknamed Old Shatterhand and their subsequent friendship.
My admiration, utter respect and deep sorrow for the real North Americans, i.e. "Indians" came from reading these books, which covered every aspect of the genocide inflicted upon them by the "Whites". I understand Mr. King's words and feelings. Although the May books are not a creditable recital of truth and consequences, they are after all only novels of adventure, but reading between the lines was the education of my mind. I began to see matters for what they were and are. There are parallels, such as the Raj in India, South Africa, Rhodesia, Polynesia, Australia, indeed also the black race in our own backyard, and more. The Whites were not alone in their fury, the Japanese had their own agenda, and once we get into religious-com-racial subjects, then the Hitler approach was an example of maniacal proportions.
I have no, and can offer no, solutions for the future. Attempting to turn back history to day one cannot be done. I can only hope the future will resolve itself into something acceptable to both sides. Perhaps it will be easier with successive future generations. Too late for me to see. At 73 years of age I must accept the status quo. As Mr. King's legitimate bitterness lingers, so does mine alongside his. I wish I had his eloquence, if so, I would write my own book, perhaps titled "The Pestilence of the White Race".