Border Crossings: Thomas King's Cultural Inversions


223 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4134-5
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Douglas Ivison

Douglas Ivison is an assistant professor of English at Lakehead
University in Thunder Bay.


Native writer Thomas King is one of Canada’s leading literary and
cultural figures. Border Crossings, written by three scholars of
Canadian, American, and First Nations literatures, provides a
comprehensive and accessible discussion of King’s multi-faceted work.

As the title suggests, the book focuses on the ways in which King
critiques, challenges, transgresses, subverts, and explores borders, of
nation–states, peoples, cultures, gender, and genre. Situating their
analysis within the context of border studies, the authors seek to
demonstrate the ability of King to “contest and undermine dominant
borders and boundaries,” at least partially as a result of what they
describe as the “in-betweenness” of King, as an American-born
Canadian citizen of Native and white ancestry.

One of the strengths of this book is its careful examination of the
function of the comic elements in King’s work. The humour, the authors
argue, allows King to appeal to a wide range of audiences, while
simultaneously presenting narratives that invert and challenge the
dominant assumptions of North American society.

To date, most scholarly analysis of King has focused on his literary
works, particularly Green Grass, Running Water. Certainly, the authors
do provide a detailed and enlightening discussion of his novels and
short stories, but they also draw our attention to King’s other works:
his children’s books, TV scriptwriting, radio show, and photographs.
The ways in which King crosses genre and media boundaries, which has so
far received less attention, is highlighted here in useful ways and
should lead to further fruitful study.

Border Crossings is a thorough and well-written work, one that is
clearly grounded in the relevant literary theory and scholarship but yet
remains accessible to a non-specialist readership. It is a real
contribution to the study of Thomas King, as well as to the broader
fields of First Nations and Canadian literatures.


Davidson, Arnold E., Priscilla L. Walton, and Jennifer Andrews., “Border Crossings: Thomas King's Cultural Inversions,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,