13. A collection of short stories: A Short History of Indians in Canada by Thomas King
List Progress: 3/30
A truly good short story is one that can build a clear image or dynamic very quickly. The story needs to get you hooked near-immediately and say just enough to hit you hard and fast with that image. Thomas King is clearly a master of this artform. He is a prolific First Nations Canadian author who has been publishing since the 90’s, and this 2005 collection, A Short History of Indians in Canada, is sleek and polished. With approachable and conversational prose, King delivers singular images that stick with you and propel you through the book quickly.
Most of the stories, as implied by the title, are about Native Canadians and the issues they face in modern society, but the stories never feel the same. Some are intimate slices of life, like “The Dog I Wish I had, I Would Call It Helen” and “Haida Gwaii”, where other stories like “The Baby in the Airmail Box” and “Little Bombs” are truly absurd. Some stories are in the first person, others in the third person, and a couple are told in the second person, as if the reader is listening to an oral storyteller. It’s a great variety for a single collection and keeps it from feeling repetitive even when similar subject matters may be repeated.
This is a great collection and I would recommend reading the whole thing, but considering that a lot of King’s stories have been published in other works and anthologies as well, I’ll recommend my favorite individual stories:
- “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”
- “The Baby in the Airmail Box”
- “Coyote and the Enemy Aliens”
- “Where the Borg Are”
- “States to Avoid”
- “Not Counting the Indian, There Were Six”
Even some of the heaviest subject material is rendered accessible with King’s writing, which is the key to getting the message of a short story across. This is my first introduction to Thomas King’s work, but I highly doubt it will be my last.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.