Canada Reads

The Marrow Thieves author Cherie Dimaline reflects on the Canada Reads 2020 longlist

Cherie Dimaline, who had a book on Canada Reads 2018, talks about this year's longlist and what it means to have a title chosen for CBC's battle of the books.
Cherie Dimaline is the author of The Marrow Thieves. (Peter Power/CBC, Dancing Cat Books)

Cherie Dimaline knows what having your book chosen for Canada Reads means. Her YA novel The Marrow Thieves was a finalist on the show in 2018 when it was defended by singer Jully Black.

The Marrow Thieves has won numerous awards, including a Governor General's Literary Award and the 2018 Sunburst Award for young adult fiction. It has been a fixture on the Canadian bestseller lists since appearing on the show.

Dimaline's latest book is the novel Empire of Wild.

Dimaline spoke with Here & Now host Gill Deacon about the Canada Reads 2020 longlist and what having her book on Canada Reads has meant to her life as an author. 

The final five books and their champions will be revealed on Jan. 22, 2020.

The debates will take place March 16-19, 2020 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan. The debates will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Bringing Canada into focus

"I love the theme this year. It's like when you go to the optometrist and you're sitting in the chair and have that big machine thing on your face. They put different prescription lenses in front of your eyes and they ask 'Which one is better? One or two? A or B?' You have to decide which allows you to see the best.

They allow us the ability to see through different perspectives and different angles so that things come into sharper focus for us.- Cherie Dimaline

"That's what these books can be and should be. They allow us the ability to see through different perspectives and different angles so that things come into sharper focus for us."

Bestselling author Cherie Dimaline shares what it was like having her YA novel The Marrow Thieves on Canada Reads. 6:05

A unique experience

"Canada Reads is very stressful. It's not just on TV, on radio and in the print media that people are discussing your work, it's all those lovely social media commentaries and — let's face it — the trolls that come out. But the other writers that were there with me were so fantastic and they've all become good friends of mine.

It truly is like you have a champion riding into battle for you.- Cherie Dimaline

"I was also very blessed in that I had such a vocal, passionate defender in Jully Black. You see some of that chemistry that happens between the defenders and the authors. It truly is like you have a champion riding into battle for you."

Canada Reads panellists Mozhdah Jamalzadah, Jully Black and Greg Johnson discuss why The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline should be mandatory reading for Canadian schools. 1:52

Lasting impact

"The impact of Canada Reads cannot be underestimated. I'd published other books before The Marrow Thieves. This one wasn't much different. I was talking about Indigenous themes, I was telling stories that I knew from my community or from that perspective and it was with a small publisher. But when Canada Reads picks it up, it brings a lot of media attention and, most importantly, it gets the book into hands of readers that might not otherwise have picked it up.

When Canada Reads picks it up... it gets the book into hands of readers that might not otherwise have picked it up.- Cherie Dimaline

"The book was billed as YA so automatically there was a lot of adult readers who weren't going to pick it up. Then maybe people thought it might be too hard or too dark because it talks about residential schools. Canada Reads put it out there in the national discussion and some of that discussion was hard. That discussion was had and now the book is being studied in schools.

"I'm actually going over to Europe to launch the European editions over there in 2020. And this year we are working on the TV adaptation for The Marrow Thieves as well."

Cherie Dimaline's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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