A few months ago, we at Callisto Crate heard that Cherie Dimaline had a new novel coming out called Empire of Wild. Instantly, we started hounding our book representative at the publisher for a review copy because, after the success of The Marrow Thieves, we knew that we wanted to get our hands on this book to see if it would be good for a Callisto Crate — and the initial blurb certainly piqued our interest. Luckily, we got an advanced copy, read the book and loved it, and were able to combine some lovely, artisanal items to create a beautiful box.
Why We Love Empire of Wild
Why were we so taken with Empire of Wild? There are so many reasons, really. As Canadians, we love to read Canadian authors and are thrilled when we can find a Canadian book by an Indigenous author that also fits our mandate for strong women reads. And then there is the book itself – the writing is gritty and to the point, the story is a compelling blend of contemporary and Metis folklore, and the politics are important to all of Canada.
Strong Female Protagonist
And then there is Joan. She is a fantastic strong, female protagonist. She has problems, she drinks too much, her husband has disappeared, and, when she finds him, he doesn’t believe he is who she says he is. Joan is determined and relentless in believing in herself and finding out the truth. She is so relatablely human — she gets scared, makes mistakes, and keeps going. She is driven by love and takes advice from her Euchre loving, foul mouthed grandmother, and does her best for her Johnny Cash obsessed nephew. Dimaline does a wonderful job of developing family dynamics as well as bringing in the bigger picture of what is going on in the community, namely that the Reverand Wolff is using religion to force through a mine.
Great Story & Important Politics
This human exploration of relationships and love in a story of greater political and cultural importance is best explained by Cherie Dimaline herself. She was kind enough to grant us an interview to include in our boxes, and here is an excerpt that speaks to this:
Callisto Crate: What would you like readers to take away from your book?
Cherie Dimaline: I would love if readers would think more about how we need to keep Indigenous thought and law when it comes to the land. It just makes sense- wouldn’t you want to turn to the best available experts when it came to any health or wellness issue? And I also want them to celebrate the beautiful brokenness of love. There’s nothing more revealing, touching or hilarious than the ways in which we love one another.
Later, she also explained:
Cherie Dimaline: A few years ago, I found out how much easier it is to get approvals through for pipelines, mining, etc. when there is no ‘demonstrated traditional land use’ by Indigenous communities and that the communities that have been ‘brought to God’ have less of this ‘traditional land use’.
The questions that brought me to where I ended up were:
- Why is there such an interest in well-funded, Indigenous fronted missions in communities now?
- And then what happens when the colonizers are done with the land, done with our children, and come for our legends/gods/stories/tricksters? How will these entities respond? And how do we help them stay alive, or at least, stay out of their way so they can do what they have to do to resist?
It is no accident that Chapters Indigo has named Empire of Wild it’s number 1 book in Canada for 2019, and we will be shocked if this book is not nominated for awards or isn’t discussed during the next Canada Reads.
Congratulations, Cherie Dimaline, on a wonderfully told novel. We can’t wait to see what she writes next!
Article originally published November 20, 2019