Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Short History of Indians in Canada - Thomas King (December/05)

This was the last book I read in 2005. I have been sorting of slow with the blog updating, so I am of course behind. I need to have the book in front of me for inspiration and I left some of them at my boyfriends. So, this is a very exciting short story collection. I read it the day I bought it because, it is THOMAS KING. He is my favourite Canadian author, as he wrote Green Grass, Running Water, a book I believe to be a masterpiece in humour and symbolism. He is really hard to find, though, so when I saw this book, I grabbed.

First off, I did put the words "Indian" in the title, that is the name he chose for his book. Do not send me hate mail because it is political incorrect. He is a Native, he teaches Native studies, he call his people what he likes. Now that I have that out of the way, I find it very hard to talk about a short story collection as a whole because the stories in it are all different. The theme is, of course, Natives in Canada. He is looking at their trials and tribulations in his short stories in a sort of humourous way. Some of the things he touches on are how the Native race is dying out, how the Whites look to the Natives, how the Natives people are misunderstood by White people, etc. He does not shove these issues in your face, though, he just puts scenerios out there that in the end leaving you thinking about Native issues.

I just wanted to mention my two favourite short stories from the collection. The first one is the title of the book, "A Short History of Indians in Canada". This is the story that really caught my eye because of the quote: "A flock of Indians has just flown smack into the side of a Bay Street Skyscraper again" found on the sleeve of the book. It talks a lot, to me, about how the natives used to be about nature (hence the birds) and then one day there natural land was turned into a site of development (skyscrapers). I like the way he puts it across, when you read it in the sleeve you are like: huh?, but if you read the story it makes sense and is presented well.

My other favourite short story in the collection is called: "Where the Borgs are". The title had me curious, the story had me laughing. To describe it in a nutshell, a little boy writes an essay about the Indian Act, (which everyone tells him is an unimportant period in history because there is no holiday for it), and compares the Europeans to the Borg from Star Trek. The borg, for those that do not know, assimilate other cultures and make them part of their own. Exactly like the Europeans did with the Natives. His teacher tells him he is wrong, and by the end of the short story he can find traits in the Europeans from all the villains from Star Trek. To name a couple, Europeans like money like the Ferangis, go to war like the Klingons, and even when you get down to it they are connected to the 'good' Federation.

It is an interesting collection of short stories, I was very glad to have read it. His books always leave me thinking. I do not know many Natives, but I know of their issues, and I hope that one day we will not be the Borg or the Klingons, or the Ferangi, but will leave in a world where many different cultures can lead the life they want and still be respected by others.

I give this collection a 4.5 out of 5.

1 comment:

  1. I just picked up "A Short History of Indians in Canada" last night at Book Warehouse. Like you, I was fascinated by the title, and because Thomas King is also one of my favorite authors. I really LOVED Dead Dog Cafe on CBC Radio.

    King is such a good story teller. He makes his points by using analogy. He takes stories that we are familiar with like the Borg from Start Trek, or the Flocks of Birds, and transposes them with First Nations issues.

    At first, you wonder if he is on acid, because his opening scenarios seem so illogical. But that is because of his "Indian perspective." By reading his stories, we are allowed in, as guests... He shares the indian perspective, by trying to help us get outside our usual retoric and stereotypes, and presents the situations fresh and in unexpected ways.

    I especially loved the story "Coyote and the Enemy Aliens." It is about how the Japanese Canadians were interned during WW2. A wonderful story that I will share with Joy Kogawa.

    Cheers, Todd


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