Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: The Inconvenient Indian

[Thomas King. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2012.]

It's hard to come up with a substantive review when you don't have much to say that's critical, even constructively critical, about the book in question. So this review will be short, perhaps no longer than a single paragraph. In any case, King is a great writer. His prose is accessible and engaging, and his ability to convey ideas that might be unfamiliar and challenging to readers left me deeply impressed. I like his way of interweaving history and story. I think I was most taken by his strategic, flowing use of different tones and modes -- humour, self-deprecation, interventions from his partner, upfront anger, personal anecdotes, lists, honest bitterness, lots of others -- to simultaneously convey the depth of the pain and struggle that cannot help but be present in an "account of Native people in North America" while refusing to let that make the text heavy or detach it from the reality of matter-of-fact, everyday survival and even thriving. Folks who have already put time and energy into learning this history may not learn much in terms of new "facts" from this book -- though speaking for myself, a fair bit of the material from the south side of the line that artificially divides Turtle Island was new to me, and a little bit from the north side too -- but they might still enjoy the read. And while it inevitably reflects one person's analysis of the current moment and the way forward, and I think efforts by those of us who are non-indigenous to grapple with our colonial past and present and work towards a decolonized future of necessity means listening and reading much farther and wider than just one analysis, I still think this is exactly the sort of book that should be in the curriculum of every high school in North America. But probably won't be.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, almost all considerably longer than this one, click here.]

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