We just finished reading The Marrow Thieves and we’ve been talking about the author’s descriptions. They talk about the sixteen year old protagonist as if he exists which I believe is irrefutable evidence the author has been successful. I remind them – this is a 44 year old woman writing from the voice of a 16 year old boy. A few eyes shift left and I read a sense of awakening with the audible shifting in chairs, an “oh yeah”, and smiles blossom.
We then talk about the central premise that Indigenous people are being hunted for their bone marrow because they are the dreamers and eveyone else has lost the ability to dream. They seem to like this idea and there is no need to explain the importance of dreams to teenagers.
“Dreams get caught in the webs woven in your bones. That’s where they live, in that marrow there.” (Dimaline 18)
We talk about the scientific role of bone marrow as the source of blood – a metaphor for life, connection to others, identity. They understand without explanation nodding to let me know without words. Checking for comprehension is sometimes quantifiable and often not; I decide to trust my instincts not looking for levels and numbers to justify my findings. I believe they are following, making connections, and feeling the importance of dreams in their own lives, but I don’t have a data point.
My literary reverie is broken and the shards of reality peirce my comfort. I remember those who released their dreams, put them aside to care for younger siblings, work a part-time job, or help an ailing parent; their dreams are muted and constrained.
There is a student in her class that we have been watching closely. Poverty is an ever present guest and his home life is more than difficult, more than a 16 year old boy should be managing. Like Frenchie, he’s on the run, trying to hang on to his dreams and we are in his wake, behind invisible structures trying to bend them out of existence. As he leaves class today, I catch his eye in the hallway, smile and we exchange a look that isn’t quantifiable. I hope he hears me whisper inside, “We’re with you. You’ve got this. Keep dreaming.”