I spent a lot of time trying to think about how to write about Thomas King’s A Short History of Indians in Canada. I had trouble finding a single story where I could clearly pinpoint a moral in any one story. I enjoyed them, but I couldn’t figure out what the lesson was. They all seemed unresolved. Ultimately, I decided the solution was to read more: what did others say about it? Afraid my tired brain (because most of my reading happens in the middle of the night) wouldn’t handle academic papers, I found myself on book review sites to find out what I was missing.
After stumbling upon the Quill and Quire review, I discovered I wasn’t missing anything. King is one of Canada’s most notable Native writers, and he has actually written analyses of Native fiction, ultimately positing that many of these stories are without resolution, moral but rather focus more on entertainment (as a means of survival, a very common theme amongst many Canadian writers).
So knowing that I did the right thing (reading for enjoyment – how novel!), I feel a little more comfortable discussing this book. King is a fabulous writer – I read his novel Green Grass, Running Water in my second year of University. This book stood out from the rest of the reading list as the one book that was actually funny. And not deeply hidden levels of irony funny. Actually funny.
It was kind of a relief to see race relations discussed in the vein of humour. As I’ve written before, conversations on racism, particularly with the Native population of Winnipeg, have become tense recently. As a result, the student government at one of the universities in the city would like to move towards creating a compulsory class in Indigenous Studies for all degrees. While that has been met with mixed reviews, it isn’t all that revolutionary for some. After all, it is a requirement for Education degrees in some institutions (when I went through for my education degree, they had attempted to make it a class examining the different social, cultural and economic values that influence everyone. Some how, I ended up doing a presentation where I created a felt cutout of myself and posted pictures of my life on it. I’m sure I also learned something as well). Yes, there are serious issues at hand, but what I like about King is that his humour allows me to take a look at the Native culture and interaction with other culture in a less tense, and less heated atmosphere.
Book: A Short History of Indians in Canada
Author: Thomas King
Features: Humour, and lots of it. Not necessarily laugh out loud humour, but the occasional snicker did sneak out and wake the baby.
Who should read: people wanting to delve further into race relations in a low-pressure environment.