The world today is marked by misunderstanding, bitterness and violence. At the heart of many of our current conflicts is the struggle to find a home, to claim a place. The need to establish common ground with new neighbors and old enemies – to understand each other’s cultures and motivations – has never been more urgent.
Through the ages, stories have given shape and meaning to our sense of ourselves as individuals, cultures and nations. As Ted Chamberlain reveals in this fascinating book, we are both connected by the stories and separated by their different truths. Whether Jew or Arab, black or white, Muslim or Christian, Catholic or Protestant, man or woman, our stories hold us in thrall and others at bay. We love and hate, make homes for ourselves and drive others out, on the basis of ancient tales.
Except for the idea of a creator, there is no idea quite as bewildering – or which causes as much conflict – as that of home. Can one land ever be home to more than one people? Can the world ever be home to all of us? Not until we have reimagined “them” and “us,” insists Ted Chamberlin. And we can’t do that until we understand each other’s stories – from nursery rhymes and national anthems to creation myths and the theories of science.
This vital, engrossing book explores the hold that stories have on us, how we are nourished and influenced by them. Drawing on his experience as scholar and storyteller, as witness among native peoples and across cultures, Ted Chamberlin takes us on a journey through the tales of North American tribal communities, the stories and songs of Africa, the cowboy songs he grew up with, the beloved poems of childhood, and the scientific and religious traditions he knows well.
Written with insight and deep humanity, If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? examines why it is now more important than ever to attend to what others are saying in their stories and myths – and what we are saying about ourselves.
J. Edward Chamberlin is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. He has lectured widely around the world on cultural and political issues, as well as on literature and the arts. He was Senior Research Associate with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, poetry editor of Saturday Night magazine, and for over thirty years has worked on native land claims in Canada, the United States, Africa and Australia. His extensive list of books includes The Harrowing of Eden: White Attitudes Towards Native Americans (1975), Ripe Was the Drowsy Hour: The Age of Oscar Wilde (1977) and Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies (1993). He lives in Toronto.