Book Review: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King


Book Review: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

Goodreads Description:

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America. 

Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. 

This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope -- a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future


I have a hard time writing a synopsis for non-fiction books, so I included the Goodreads description. Thomas King provides an account of colonialism in North America and how it has shaped contemporary relations between First Nations and Non-Natives. King sets the record straight and explains many misconceptions about Natives. I thoroughly enjoyed his explanation between “Legal Indian” and a “Non-legal Indian.” There were many parts of the book that I highlighted and noted for future reference. I found the book utterly fascinating. I’ve done a lot of research on my history, and thought this book was one of the best I’ve read in a long time. King doesn’t provide a dissertation or footnotes; he conveys what’s on his mind. He’s truly a master storyteller.

King’s idea that Indigenous people are “inconvenient” to governments, really struck a chord with me. I thought it was truthful and really pertinent today, especially with recent protests and media coverage. I struggled with writing my review because I wasn’t sure I could give this book justice.

As a Mi'kmaw, I wholeheartedly encourage curious readers to read this book. Thomas King is readable, relatable and he doesn’t sugarcoat the issues. It’s hard to find good historical books that are readable and entertaining, but Thomas King succeeds. He adds humour to engage the reader, and point out the obvious that is not always so obvious. I found myself laughing, and thinking “this is so true.” He lays it all out and gives readers a lot to think about. I highly recommend this one for both the indigenous and non-indigenous people who want to learn more.

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