24 September 2016

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America - Thomas King

This is a book that had been on my TBR stack for a while.  I had flagged it on Overdrive (library e-reading app) but had never borrowed it.  But then at the beginning of the summer, I saw it on sale at the bookstore and picked up a copy.  Having read it, I'm glad that I read a paper copy rather than an e-book copy.  It was the sort of book where I appreciated the ease of being able to flip back and forth that you can only find with a paper book.

I finished this book 6 weeks ago, but I'm only getting around to writing this review now.  I'm not quite sure how to review this book.  I do think that it's an important book for people to read.  It won the Canada Reads competition in 2015 where it was chosen as the book that all Canadians should read, and I agree with that.

I guess that my issue lies in the fact that the people who need to read this book - the people who are steeped in racism and false assumptions about Indigenous people in Canada (and the United States) and our mutual history - are not the people who are going to be picking up this book.  And that makes me sad.

(As a side note, shortly after finishing this book, I was thinking to myself, "well yes, people should know the history of what this book covers, but really there can't be too many people around these days who don't know this history."  And then I was listening to the radio one morning and heard this news story.  Make sure that you click on the video part way down to hear her poem.)

Basically, this book covers Indigenous/Non-Indigenous relationships - or Indian/White relationships to use the terminology of the book - in North America in the centuries since the first colonizers appeared in North America.  Some eras are dealt with in great detail, while others are skipped over (I was surprised at how little of the book deals with residential schools).  The information that was new to me tended to be the information about the Indian/White relationship in the United States, as my reading and news awareness tends to be Canadian-centric; and while I have visited several Canadian reserves, I have never visited an American reservation.

This could have been a very dry book to read, but Thomas King's story-telling style of narration makes it a very readable book instead.

So I guess that is to say that I am a bit conflicted about this book.  I think that everyone needs to know the story that is presented here.  Unfortunately, I don't think that those who still need to know this information will pick up this book.  And I'm sad that a book like this is necessary.

(Book 5 of 13 in the Canadian Book Challenge at The Book Mine Set)