Updated: Aug 23, 2020
While doing my Master's of Education Research about representation in children's literature I came across Thomas King. I had vaguely heard about Thomas King but during my research process I had the privilege to read and learn about his work. I read, The Truth About Stories, A Native Narrative and it was as if I was finally able to 'name' and 'label' my passion and commitment to literature, specifically children's literature. King says "the truth about stories is that's all we are" (2). In saying this he refers to how stories really are a cornerstone of our societies and communities. Stories give us frameworks and reference points.
As an educator committed to equity, King's work around storytelling and understanding the power of stories really gave my research a framework and focus. It also helped me reflect on the power I had as an educator to think critically about the stories that are always told and centered in the curriculum and the many reasons for this. I learned that there is power in the story that is told, who is telling it and how it is told. I thought critically about the types of stories that might be told about my identities and which of those stories include me and which exclude me. I reflected on 'who' has the power to tell these stories and wondered what it would be like to tell my own story. If stories are "wondrous" and "dangerous" like King states, I wanted to think about which stories about me are dangerous, the ones that are stereotypical and which have the potential to be wondrous? 'wondrous' stories interested me because they helped me recognize that I could use my platform and positional power as an educator to first learn, then bring forward and amplify stories that have been erased, silenced and ignored for to long.
King words of "want a different ethic, tell a different story" (164) and "you could have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story" (29) really inspired me and I saw this as a 'calls to action'. I reflected about my passion of children's literature. I used to think that my interest in children's literature was simply something on the sidelines not something that important or significant. I was always seeking out books with racialized characters represented dynamically and through an equity lens, but I didn't think it was a big deal. It was just something I was doing more so as a hobby. But King's words helped me recognize that my passion had an important place in equity work. It was my way of responding and answering the call to action. Part of my work became to find and seek out stories that represent all people dynamically and respectfully. My commitment is to bring forward and amplify voices that are writing their own stories and to share 'everyday stories' that reflect people in shared experiences.
I wonder how as educators, we can plant seeds and change discourses if we share these stories. Can we help ourselves and our students live their lives 'differently' by bringing forward dynamic and complete stories that disrupt single stories and narratives about people? Lao Tuz says "To see things in the seed, that is genius" so I do believe that there is potential and power in this work. This work with stories is not work for the sidelines or margins, it is the 'work' and needs to be centered.
Equity is a big concept and it can be a very theoretical concept. My commitment to thinking critically about the stories that I share and bring forward is one of the way I am striving to do equity work. I believe that when we question the stories that have always been told and investigate the reasons for this, we are becoming critically conscious members of our communities. In this way we are also striving towards social and political transformative change. The truth is there is power in the stories. Stories are a cornerstone. Stories make us who we are or strive to be.
There is so much of this book that I have underlined, highlighted and constantly refer back to. It is one of my favourite books. The messages have become so deeply embedded in my pedagogy and how I strive to teach.
The Truth About Stories, A Native Narrative