Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Highly Recommended: Cherie Dimaline's THE MARROW THIEVES

I first came to know Cherie Dimaline's writing last year, when I read "Legends are Made, Not Born" in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two-Spirit Sci Fi Anthology. The character she writes about in that story is named Auntie Dave. 

I wrote, then, that I had to "just be" with Auntie Dave and that story for awhile. There's a quality in Dimaline's writing that reached from the page, into my being. 

That's the case, too, with The Marrow Thieves. I paused again and again as I met and came to know 16 year-old French, and then the people who would become his family: Miig, Wab, Zheegwon, Tree, RiRi, Minerva, Chi-Boy, and Slopper. 

Later, French will meet and fall in love with Rose. On page 32, there's a line about her that squeezes my heart. "We had a future and a past all bundled up in her round dark cheeks and loose curls." 

French (sometimes called Frenchie; his given name is Francis) and the rest are on the run, running away from "the Recruiters." Here, I'll share the description from the back cover:
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. 
In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden.... but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves. 
The hunters in Dimaline's story are "the Recruiters." They're the ones French and all the others are hiding from, running from. The Marrow Thieves begins when French is 11, being chased by those Recruiters who want to take Indigenous people to schools to take their marrow. That's a specific reference to the residential schools of the past, where so much was taken from Native children. It is one of many points in The Marrow Thieves where--painfully or with exquisite beauty--Dimaline's story resonates with me. It will resonate with other Native readers, too, especially those who are Anishinabe. Several tribal nations are mentioned in here, too.

One moment that made my heart swell is when the group has come to an abandoned hotel. After months of sleeping on the ground in tents, they cautiously enter the hotel, and then later, enthusiastically say good night, each in their own rooms, on beds. For the first time, French and Rose are curled up together. They're startled when they hear little Ri say "French, can I sleep with you guys?" and then a minute or two later, Slopper (he and Ri are the two children in the group) appears and says "Move over, French. I can't sleep." They drift off to sleep. That's how it is.

There's a passage in The Marrow Thieves that, for me, embodies what matters for any society. French thinks about how, when a people don't have their youngest and their oldest, they are without deep roots, and without an acute need to protect and make things better.

That's a key piece of why this story is one I'm carrying. It is about caring, about love, about how people can continue, and will continue.

There's so much more to say. About... song. About Miggs and Isaac, about Ri, about Minerva, about French.  But I'll stop and let you be with these achingly dear characters.

I highly recommend The Marrow Thieves. I ordered my copy from Canada. Published by Dancing Cat Books (an imprint of Cormorant Books), it isn't available in the US till later this year.

2 comments:

Kacy Helwick said...

Thanks for the recommendation Debbie, I'll definitely get this for my library when it comes out in September!

doramitchell said...

This sounds fantastic! I LOVE it that someone wrote a genre novel that deals with such important issues and focuses on people of color. Hooray!