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“We’re dealing with a society of children”: Cherie Dimaline meets Jully Black | Canada Reads 2018


Jully: I need to carry you in my purse and be like Cherie what am I? Who am I? Tell me again.
Cherie: I’ve seen your purse. I will live in your purse. That’s a Louis Vuitton.
Jully: That was the ex-boyfriend. Jully: Hey Canada. What’s up? It’s me, your girl, Jully Black and I’m here with my soul sister, prolific writer, Shero, She-E- oh, oh my goodness award-winning author, Cherie Dimaline. It’s all about The Marrow Thieves. What up girl? Cherie: Oh I’m good. How are you?
Jully: I’m fantastic and I’m happy that you’re here. I got some questions for you.
Cherie: Okay let’s do it. Jully: Okay first one: how did you come up with the title of your book?
Cherie: Okay so this is a two-part answer. So the first one is I’m about 20-years-old and I’m hanging out at the Friendship Centre with a bunch of other Indigenous kids, and we’re really angry. We’re like yelling around about injustice and things that are happening in our communities and this Inuit elder comes in and he says… He listens to us for a minute and then he says, “Wow you guys are really pissed off.” We said, “Yeah we’re angry.” And he said, “Okay, do you ever consider that maybe you should be compassionate?” We said, “Okay, we are compassionate. We’re compassionate for our people, for our families, for communities. That’s why we’re angry.” And he said, “No. Maybe you should show some compassion for the people you’re angry at.” And we said,”You know, what do these, what do these white people need our compassion for?” And he said, “Because when they left their lands, they had killed all their medicine people. They had killed all of the women that held their teachings.” So you know the Druids and then the witches and everyone. They lost their medicine people and when you don’t have your elders anymore, you become children. So what we’re dealing with is a society of children. And when children are left to their own devices and they have to survive, they can be quite brutal. So this is what happened, they came over here trying to survive, as a society of kids.
Jully: That’s deep. Cherie: And then years later, so years later a couple of books out, and I’m in… I’m in Yellowknife with a group of Indigenous women writers. Me and my friend were complaining about how horrible it is to be pregnant. Everyone is like, “Oh it’s so beautiful” and like, “carrying life” and we’re like, “It’s the worst!” And she said to me, “You know it’s because a fetus will do anything right inside of you to live. They’ll literally leech the vitamins out of your bones. They’re really just the most beautiful marrow thieves.”
Jully: Wow.
Cherie: And so that’s where the idea came from. What was it about my book that you connected with?
Jully: Ooh the story of family for sure, family versus relatives. Having to continue to persevere through trials, through tribulations, realizing that there is hope always. So many of the characters even Riri — well they’re going to think I’m talking about Rihanna — not ‘Pon de Replay’ ok?
There’s another Riri in the book. I won’t get into details, but all the characters I totally related to or I could I could put faces of different family members and friends to them. Yeah, they became real in my mind. Yeah.
Cherie: That’s awesome.
Jully: What is the strangest thing you’ve done to research a book?
Cherie: Okay so I’m currently working on this book, and so I had to have to look into evangelical churches and missionaries and revival tents. You know like old-timey…
Jully: Yeah. Cherie: …stomp and revival tents.
Jully: Yeah.
Cherie: So a couple weeks ago, driving back from Santa Fe, I decided I had to make this research stop. So we stopped in the hills of Kentucky. Did you know there is a life-size Noah’s Ark? Jully: What?
Cherie: Yes. Somebody has built
Jully: No.
Cherie: Yes. A life-size Noah’s Ark. So you get there, you pay a very nice lady $50. You get on a bus, you take the bus up the mountain and it is… it is a life-size Noah’s Ark and you go in and it’s like, they have all like the replicas like mannequin like Noah and his wife. Jully: No way.
Cherie: Yeah! And all the animals.
Jully: So do they do it like biblical measurements and all that?
Cherie: Yes they did. And at the end they did a laser show on the side of the Noah’s Ark.
Jully: What?
Cherie: And you get hot chocolate.
Jully: okay yeah I want to go there. That’s awesome! Cherie: Why did you decide to do Canada Reads? Jully: oh my goodness, I decided to do Canada Reads because I realized that I read the same types of books. And I feel like I need to learn something.
Cherie: hmm
Jully: You know, you finish school, and you read the books that have to do with the problems you think you have, interestingly enough. And then I was like, I miss being a student. Like I miss that, even that little bit of anxiety or like deadlines and learning and then BOOM CBC came calling. And I was like okay God, I didn’t say right now, you know. ok so I get read the five books. Five books I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen myself.
Cherie: mm-hmm
Jully: And it’s totally impacted me in such a positive way. Jully: What do you hope readers take away from reading this book?
Cherie: I hope that people take hope.
Jully: Hmm
Cherie: They do, it’s pretty dark. It’s apocalyptic and we’re talking about the future. There’s like you know the re-emergence of the residential school system, there’s people running for their lives, there’s you know — not everything that happens is pretty, but it’s strong and it’s hopeful. And I hope that you know when people read it, they realize that even in the worst circumstances man, we’re good. Jully: Oh yeah! I’ve definitely found that out. It’s awesome.

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