Absolutely Essential Reading: The Inconvenient Indian

downloadI don’t really have much to say about Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian beyond two things: this is a very well-written book and it is absolutely essential reading for any North American.

As to the first: King is an amazing writer and surely one of the treasure’s of North American writing. I say North American because King himself resists labels like Canadian or American and prefers Native instead. I have loved his fiction for a long time, have hopes of listening to his CBC radio broadcast Dead Dog Cafe at some point in the future when I have time again, and am constantly impressed by his output across genres.

As to the second: King gives what he calls a “curious account of Native people in North America,” eschewing terms the term history because it limits what he is able to do. What he writes is a personal reflection on the long course of indigenous history in North America, the present problems and the future possibilities. Simply put, indigenous-settler/invader relations don’t look too different today than those of the 19th or 18th centuries. If you are surprised by this, read chapter 7 “Forget About It.” King’s work is a call to action and a timely reminder that Canada and the United States have a long ways to go before anything resembling justice will be achieved between these countries and the indigenous inhabitants who were here long before. King maintains a humorous/wry tone throughout but his simmering anger comes to a boil at many points (as it should given the history he writes). This is not a shrill polemic or a conveniently forgetful account but a thoughtful piece of writing that King has been working on for a long time. And it shows.

Simply put, if you live in North America, you need to read this book.

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


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