The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

This book was the one book I wish I didn’t read during the pandemic. I adored it to bits and desperately wanted to talk to everyone about this book. Unfortunately, I never got the chance.

The way our course was structure, we had a 50 minute zoom class two times a week, and then we had asynchronous work to do independently. This system really worked with the type of learner I am. But dear god it did not give me the chance to talk about this book.

I wrote my term-paper on it, but that still didn’t give me the chance to discuss what I really loved about the book.

The Marrow Thieves is a dystopian sci-fi, novel about Indigenous people in Canada. In the book, the government is trying to harvest bone marrow from the Indigenous population. People shy away from heavy topics and but this book isn’t that heavy. While the reason for the plot is dark and heavy, the book mostly follows a found family and their survival on the run. It’s simply a family loving each other.

I cried several times while reading, and had nobody to talk to about it. I was hoping we’d get class time to discuss several plot points, but we were too busy getting ready for the end of term. So I had to sit alone in my bedroom, on Zoom, with only my thoughts to keep me company.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you, Reader, because it is an absolute delight, but something happens midway through that made me throw my book across my room and cry. Immediately after, I had class, and I was hoping my professor would dedicate at least 5 minutes of class to discuss it, but it never happened.

Needless to say, I didn’t pay much attention that day.

me and my dad, 2003

The thing I found most surprising in this book was the Metis validation. It wasn’t something I was looking for, it wasn’t something I didn’t even know I needed. Despite my appearance, I’m Metis. Most people overlook it, in fact they deny it, because I have blonde hair and pale skin. But that doesn’t negate what my family’s been through.

I don’t know many family stories from my dads side. There was no stories that were passed down by grandfather; everything we know is from my dad digging through census records.

My grandfather passed before I was born, so we can’t ask him anything. Not that he’d tell us anyway.

You may have heard in the news, I’m not sure how far it’s spread outside of Canada. But near the end of May, the remains of 215 children were found outside of a former Residential school. The number has since raised, now that other places are checking.

My dad was silent when the news broke, thinking everything over. Two weeks after he started talking about his father, and what it was like growing up with him.

Almost as a throw away comment, he said, “my father wanted us to be ‘Canadian’,”.

Yeah.

Interesting choice of words for a man who was Blackfoot and French Canadian.

In the words of the comedian John Mulaney, “now we don’t have time to unpack all of that“.

I don’t have the connection with my family history on my dad’s side like I do with my mom’s. My maternal grandparents are still here, and every time they want to tell me something about their life growing up, I make sure I sit and listen, because I know it’s important. Because I know what it’s like not to have these stories passed along.

The sharing of stories, and the passing of knowledge is an important theme in The Marrow Thieves. It’s how culture survives.

Around the same time that we were studying The Marrow Thieves, my professor had us study a poem by Marilyn Dumont, called Letter to Sir John A. MacDonald. It’s too long to share here, but the poem really resonated with me.

As someone who notoriously hates poetry, it’s quickly become one of my favourites, and one that I think of often:

because you know as well as I

that we were railroaded

by some steel tracks that didn’t last

and some settlers who wouldn’t settle

and it’s funny we’re still here and callin ourselves halfbreed.

-Marilyn Dumont, Letter to Sir John A. MacDonald

Resilience is a big theme within The Marrow Thieves. It was nice to be studying these two pieces at the same time, I felt they complimented each other nicely.

I hope you give this book a chance, so far it’s favourite that I have studied for my degree.

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