The Next Chapter

How Cherie Dimaline found hope in a dystopian future

Cherie Dimaline speaks about instilling a sense of pride and hope in young Indigenous readers.
Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature. (Cherie Dimaline, Dancing Cat Books)

Cherie Dimaline's community is often the inspiration for her work. The award-winning work of the Métis author and editor draws on the rich culture and history of Indigenous Canadians, as well as the struggles they have faced historically — and currently. Her YA novel The Marrow Thieves is set in a dystopian future where Indigenous people are being hunted for their bone marrow.

On disarming defensiveness

"I wanted to put aside, even for a moment, that sense of defensiveness or the tendency to shut down that can come with talking about a difficult history — for example, attempted genocide — so there is a real learning or personal emotional involvement that can happen. I wanted people to come away saying, 'I would never let that happen,' or, more correctly, 'I would never let that happen again.'"   

On the dystopian future she imagined

"I think the light through the bleakness in this dystopia is the fact that our community still exists. I wanted Indigenous youth to see themselves in the future. The dreams, of course, symbolize hope, the hope that we've always had as Indigenous people. I wanted the youth to see that hope and survival in a future context."

The influence of seven generations

"We know that from experience, when we live in a communal way and we think about others in our community, it's a better life. When I'm thinking about decisions of policy or working with the government, I think seven generations back because I need to draw on the teachings of the people that came before me. I also need to think seven generations into the future to think about the impact that my actions are going to have." 

Cherie Dimaline's comments have been edited and condensed.