Dystopian YA fiction brings readers into settings that feel simultaneously distant and close. The adolescent characters in this genre fight for their lives and the lives of their loved ones under authoritarian systems, violent oppressors, and villains intent on destruction. These thematic threads of survival and persistence appeal to readers of all ages, particularly when paired with a fictional context that feels unsettlingly close to reality. The authors warn readers that idylls are not what they seem and that the fine balance between stability and chaos can shift overnight. Is it any wonder teens find these narratives so compelling?
What makes Cherie Dimaline’s novel The Marrow Thieves (2017) so effective is her situation of fully-developed and complex Indigenous characters in a dystopian future that reflects Canada’s history of cultural genocide, and presents white supremacy as an ongoing (and far from dormant) threat. Our thirty seventh reader and I discuss memorable scenes from the novel, depictions of masculinity, storytelling and trauma, Dimaline’s intentional effort to educate young readers, situating Indigeneity in the present and future, and recommendations for further reading.
Recommendations for Further Reading/Watching/Listening
As our thirty seventh reader suggested, check out the work and writings of Cindy Blackstock the Gitxsan activist, academic, and author (Some of her articles can be found here: https://muckrack.com/cindy-blackstock/articles). Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Blackstock is a prominent and vocal critic of the structural inequalities facing Indigenous children in Canada and the country’s child welfare system.
A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015) presents an abridged version of the final TRC report, which was prepared between 2008 – 2015 and involved over 7000 survivor statements. While the process and Commission had its faults, this text serves as a good introduction to the history of residential schools, cultural genocide, and the violence perpetuated against Indigenous children by the Canadian government.
In Seven Fallen Feathers (2017), Tanya Talaga, an award-winning Anishinaabe journalist, presents the failings of government, law enforcement, and social services in Thunder Bay, Ontario through the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students between 2000 – 2011.
You can also listen to her 2018 Massey Lecture All My Relations through the following link: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-2018-cbc-massey-lectures-all-our-relations-finding-the-path-forward-1.4763007
In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (BC National Award for Canadian Non Fiction, RBC Taylor Prize, 2015 CBC Canada Reads finalist) Thomas King offers a subversive history of Indigenous and settler relations through personal reflection and creative re-tellings.
What I’m Currently Reading
Mary Barton (1848) by Elizabeth Gaskell