YA author Cherie Dimaline's recent visit to Halifax reflected on Canada's past, present and potential future

The author of the Canada Reads shortlisted YA novel The Marrow Thieves on the need for more Indigenous heroes in fiction.
Cherie Dimaline, bottom left, reads from her Canada Reads 2018 shortlisted novel, The Marrow Thieves, at the Halifax Central Library. (Alex Mason/CBC)

Métis author Cherie Dimaline made an appearance at the Halifax Central Library this March to read from her YA novel The Marrow Thieves. The book is about a group of Indigenous people hunted for their marrow and its dream-inducing properties in a world that has lost the ability to dream. The work will be defended on Canada Reads 2018 by singer Jully Black.

Readers at the Halifax Central Library gather moments before Cherie Dimaline arrives for to read and discuss her dystopian novel, The Marrow Thieves. (Kelley Edwards/CBC)

The event was hosted by CBC Mainstreet's Bob Murphy as part of the Canada Reads 2018 regional events taking place across the country. In front of an audience that included Indigenous youth, Dimaline spoke about coming to terms with Canada's colonial past. 

Cherie Dimaline, left, talks about the themes in her Canada Reads shortlisted novel, The Marrow Thieves, with Mainstreet's Bob Murphy, right. (Kelley Edwards/CBC)

She stressed that the book is written for young people for a reason. Having worked with and talked to Indigenous youth in other First Nations, Dimaline discovered that they didn't feel they had a place in the future; she resolved at that point to write a YA novel that depicts a future where Indigenous youth are seen as heroes.

Dimaline's message — celebrating a generation that looks at and learns from Canada's history of residential schools —created discussion throughout the rest of the evening. She addressed questions about colonialism in everyday situations and how conversations can be more productive between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people going forward. 

The author of The Marrow Thieves summed up her thoughts by emphasizing the importance of stories, stating that "telling our narratives in our voices with our histories is crucial."

Residential school survivor Dorene Bernard, centre, shares her experiences and and interpretation of the YA novel The Marrow Thieves with young readers and host Bob Murphy, far right. (CBC)

Also this month, residential school survivor Dorene Bernard appeared on Mainstreet to share her opinion on Dimaline's story with young readers. The full discussion can be heard below. 

The Canada Reads book The Marrow Thieves imagines a future in which indigenous people are rounded up in a way that's reminiscent of residential schools. Dorene Bernard went to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, and after she read the book she sat down with the CBC's Bob Murphy and four Nova Scotians aged 13 to 23 who also read it. They had a chance to hear her story, and ask questions. 19:45

Audio highlights of the event can also be heard here.

In these excerpts from her visit to the Halifax Central Library, author Cherie Dimaline gives the audience and Mainstreet host Bob Murphy some insight into her creative process, and her motivation in writing The Marrow Thieves. It's one of the books competing in Canada Reads, March 26-29. 21:27

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