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Narrating North American Borderlands

Thomas King, Howard F. Mosher and Jim Lynch


Evelyn P. Mayer

The study centers on the presentation of the North American borderlands in the works of Canadian Native writer Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water (1999), American writer Howard Frank Mosher’s On Kingdom Mountain (2007), and American writer Jim Lynch’s Border Songs (2009). The three authors describe the peoples and places in the northeastern, middle and northwestern border regions of the USA and Canada. The novels address important border-oriented aspects such as indigeneity, the borderlands as historic territory and as utopian space, border crossing and transcendence, post-9/11 security issues, social interaction along the border, and gender specifics. The interpretation also examines the meaning of border imaginaries, border conceptualizations, and the theme of resistance and subversion.
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3 Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water (1999): Native De/Bordering


3  Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water (1999): Native De/Bordering

Alberta-Montana Borderlands. (Focus and emphasis added).

Canadian author Thomas King adopts a Native perspective in his writing. His subject position as a Native North American writer permeates the novel in terms of characters, plot, and setting. This parallax as compared to other contemporary fiction by non-Native writers, whether from the U.S. or Canada, is enriching for the reader’s understanding and cultural awareness regarding Native issues. Border readings of various texts inform the reading and understanding of borders in geopolitics, society and lived experience. Consequently, Native perspectives on land, colonialism and current socio-economic situations are exposed by King’s Truth & Bright Water. The Native voice complements the generally accepted truths of contemporary life and history in North America.

Theoretical constructs espoused in the previous chapter come to the fore in the analysis of King’s novel. The borderscape of the river dividing and uniting the ← 65 | 66 → Canada-U.S. border region and the Native and White worlds is featured prominently, also in the novel’s title. The subversion of the colonial legacy drives the plot and the actions of the protagonists such as trickster-like Monroe Swimmer. King’s literary designation of “associational” (“Godzilla”) literature is evident in his novel as the web of the Native community spins the narrative thread. Vizenor’s concept of “survivance” punctuates the stream of narration, whether in the actions of Tecumseh’s mother Helen or in the subversive art of Monroe.

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