If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?

Finding Common Ground

Publisher: Vintage Canada
“We need to understand our stories because our lives depend upon it.” -- Ted Chamberlin

The stories we tell each other reflect and shape our deepest feelings. Stories help us live our lives -- and are at the heart of our current conflicts. We love and hate because of them; we make homes for ourselves and drive others out on the basis of ancient tales. As Ted Chamberlin vividly reveals, we are both connected by them 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 hold others at bay.

Like the work of Joseph Campbell and Bruce Chatwin, this vital, engrossing book offers a new way to understand the hold that stories and songs have on us, and a new sense of the urgency of doing so. Drawing on his own experience in many fields -- as scholar and storyteller, witness among native peoples and across cultures -- Ted Chamberlin takes us on a journey through the tales of different peoples, from North America to Africa and Jamaica.

Beautifully written, with insight and deep understanding, 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. Only then will we understand why they have such power over us.

From the Hardcover edition.



It happened at a meeting between an Indian community in northwest British Columbia and some government officials. The officials claimed the land for the government. The natives were astonished by the claim. They couldn’t understand what these relative newcomers were talking about. Finally one of...
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“[Chamberlin] dances between ideas, sources of ideas, anecdotes, giving the reader flashes of insight and glimpses of the world that are both new and profound….[He] has made this tapestry so rich that it will be explored again and again.”
—Hugh Brody, author of The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World

“Chamberlin’s book, thought-provoking and humane, is a welcome addition to this quest for cross-cultural understanding.”
—Eva Tihanyi, National Post

"Chamberlin…bring[s] together personal reminiscences — with references from sources as diverse as Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu and Canadian country singer Ian Tyson — to form a liquid, virtually seamless argument that shifts between anecdote and high theory, often on the same page.”
The Calgary Herald

“Chamberlin…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.”
Quill & Quire

“There is no easy way to describe this remarkable book. Every page is a cascade of rich and original ideas, dazzling in their breadth and profound in their relevance. Baudelaire once identified horror of home as a great malady of the modern age. In a literary journey that takes us from the of the fires of the Gitksan to the forests of Africa, from the songs of cowboys to the poetry of shamans, from science to the realm of myth, Ted Chamberlin provides the cure.”
—Wade Davis

“J. Edward Chamberlin writes with astonishing originality about the fluidity of human cultures -- about our pressing need to acknowledge the paradoxes and contradictory truths that are apparent everywhere just under the surface of events. His book reads like the distillation of a lifetime of thinking and personal experience. It is a gift to the reader.”
—Erna Paris, author of Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History

“Ted Chamberlin’s book is delightful. It tackles profound quations of cultural conflict, by reminding us of our own songs and stories, revealing the extend to which vocabulary and language enable us to know not only where we are but who we are. They give meaning to our lives; in them we are blessed by imagination, whether we realize it or not. And by an understanding of the songs and stroies of the peoples who lie beyond our borders, or even within them, we can truly know who we are, where we came from, and what we — and they — may become.”
—Thomas R. Berger, author of One Man’s Justice and A Long and Terrible Shadow

“Ted Chamberlin’s wise and wonderful ruminations on the importance of stories remind me of a gentle spring rain, penetrating and nourishing, awakening and encouraging. His book makes our world a brighter and happier place.”
—Modris Eksteins, author of Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of The Modern Age and Walking Since Daybreak: A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II and the Heart of Our Century

In our concern for the new global community, we often overlook those peoples and traditions that were and are essentially local. Indeed, our use of the very term ‘indigenous’ peoples seems to evoke the stigma of the backward and primitive, rather than its actual meaning of those who are rooted in the land of their ancestors. Ted Chamberlin’s new book places us in the middle of the stories of [indigenous] peoples from Canada to Africa to Australia about themselves and the world. Chamberlin has become our literary bard through which these people are able to speak in their own voices. An extraordinary achievement, one made once in a generation. It is not only a book that all must read but, more importantly, one that we all must listen to.”
—Sander L. Gilman, The University of Illinois, Chicago, author of Jewish Frontiers: Essays on Bodies, Histories, and Identities

From the Hardcover edition.