Canada Reads panellist Jully Black and The Marrow Thieves author Cherie Dimaline get to know each other
Cherie Dimaline's novel The Marrow Thieves is a finalist on Canada Reads 2018. Singer-songwriter Jully Black is defending the book that looks to a not-too-distant future world ravaged by climate change, where people have lost the ability to dream. Indigenous people are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow because it holds the remedy.
In the video above, Black and Dimaline get to know each other a little better in a rapid-fire Q&A round.
Jully Black: "How did you come up with the title of your book?"
Cherie Dimaline: "This is a two-part answer. The first one is I'm about 20 years old and I'm hanging out at the Friendship Centre with a bunch of other Indigenous kids. We're really angry, we're yelling around about injustice and things that are happening in our communities. This Inuit elder comes in, he listens to us for a minute and then he says, 'Well, you guys are real pissed off.' We said, 'Yeah, we're angry.' And he said, 'OK, do you ever consider that maybe you should be compassionate?' We said, 'We are compassionate. We're compassionate for our people, for our families, for our communities. That's why we're angry.' And he said, 'No, maybe you should show some compassion for the people you're angry at.' And we said, 'What do these white people need our compassion for?'
"And he said, 'because when they left their lands, they had killed all their medicine people. They had killed all of the women that held their teachings — so the Druids and the witches and everyone. They lost their medicine people and when you don't have your elders anymore, you become children. So what we're dealing with is a society of children. When children are left to their own devices and they have to survive, they can be quite brutal. So they came over here trying to survive as a society of kids. Then years later, I'm in Yellowknife with a group of Indigenous women writers. My friend and I were complaining about how horrible it is to be pregnant. Everyone's like, 'Oh it's so beautiful, carrying life' and we're like, 'It's the worst.' She said to me, 'It's because a fetus will do anything inside of you to live. They'll literally leech the vitamins out of your bones. They're really just the most beautiful marrow thieves.' That's where the idea came from."
Cherie Dimaline: "What was it about my book that you connected with?"
Jully Black: "The story of family versus relatives, having to continue to persevere through trials and tribulations, realizing that there is hope always. So many of the characters, even RiRi, I totally related to or I could put faces of different family members or friends to. They became real in my mind."
Jully Black: "What is the strangest thing you've done to research a book?"
Cherie Dimaline: "I'm currently working on this book and I had to look into evangelical churches and missionaries and revival tents — old timey, stompin' revival tents. A couple of weeks ago driving back from Santa Fe, I decided I had to make this research stop. We stopped in the hills of Kentucky. Did you know there is a life-size Noah's Ark? Somebody has built a life-size Noah's Ark. You get there and pay a very nice lady 50 dollars. You take a bus up the mountain and it is a life-size Noah's Ark. You go in and they have all the replicas, mannequin Noah and his wife. And at the end, they did a laser show on the side of Noah's Ark and you get hot chocolate."
Cherie Dimaline: "Why did you decide to do Canada Reads?"
Jully Black: "I decided to do Canada Reads because I realized that I read the same types of books and feel like I could learn something. You finish school and you read the books that have to do with the problems you think you have, interestingly enough. I said I miss being a student and even that little bit of anxiety from deadlines and learning. Then boom, CBC came calling and I was like, 'OK God, I didn't say right now.' They're five books I wouldn't have necessarily chosen myself and it's totally impacted me in such a positive way."
Jully Black: "What do you hope readers take away from reading this book?"
Cherie Dimaline: "I hope that people take hope. It's pretty dark. It's apocalyptic and we're talking about the future. There's the re-emergence of the residential school system, there are people running for their lives. Not everything that happens is pretty, but it's strong and it's hopeful and I hope that when people read it, they realize that even in the worst circumstances, ma'am we're good."
The Canada Reads 2018 contenders
- Mozhdah Jamalzadah, defending The Boat People by Sharon Bala
- Tahmoh Penikett, defending American War by Omar El Akkad
- Greg Johnson, defending Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson
- Jeanne Beker, defending Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
- Jully Black, defending The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline