Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground

by J. Edward Chamberlin

Ted Chamberlin teaches comparative literature at the University of Toronto and has worked on native land claims in the United States, Canada, Africa, and Australia. He is also a former poetry editor for Saturday Night magazine. Chamberlin brings his experience in multiple disciplines to If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?, a work of anthropology, mythology, literary studies, and linguistics. The book is ultimately a study of how stories determine the ways a culture relates to land and to home.

Chamberlin breaks these stories and myths down to their basic parts. Working with the premise that words are metaphors, and then describing metaphors as lies we choose to believe in, he demonstrates how our stories are lies we tell ourselves to describe who we are. And lies, for Chamberlin, are as good as the truth, since the world is arranged so that it’s impossible really to know the difference. This is a very postmodern attitude. Chamberlin delights in uncertainty, but one gets the sense that he is driving at – and believes in – a final truth, a “common ground” expressed through the stories people tell.

Chamberlin, too, is a storyteller at heart. His analysis is interrupted by wonderful personal anecdotes, and his prose is eloquent and lucid. Writing with the same grandfatherly mix of authority and gentleness as Joseph Campbell, Chamberlin will appeal to scholars and amateurs alike.