VenCo – the witches are on the rise

The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) is hosting its third Incite event featuring Cherie Dimaline. The Kirkus Prize and Governor General’s Literary Award winning author will be joined by author and academic Billy-Ray Belcourt who wrote A History of My Brief Body, A Minor Chorus (2021) to discuss her spellbinding new book and her prolific and varied writing life on Feb.22, 2023.

VenCo is a feminist, subversive and fanciful novel of contemporary witches on the rise. When Métis millennial Lucky St. James finds a spoon in her basement inscribed with the letters S-A-L-E-M, she joins a network of extraordinary women across North America who are searching desperately for the final spoon – and the unknown witch who holds it.

Telling it her way

Cherie Dimaline’s stories have their roots deep into family histories and Métis legend. | Photo courtesy of Cherie Dimaline

“I am a fiction author, not a cultural or political expert, not a spokesperson,” says Dimaline on her website.

Hailing from the historic Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario, the writer has her own stories to tell, stories that spring straight from the fertile soil of her imagination. But her ancestors are not far behind.

Her stories have their roots deep into family histories and Métis legends, as her grandmother, Mere, told her during her childhood. Mere, she says, has been a crucial influence on her decision to become a writer.

A pivotal legend of the northeastern arm of Lake Huron, south-central Ontario area is how the Métis, First Nations and French communities, separate but living in the same area, came together through a giant wolf.

One such story goes like this: the story, and creature, came to be known as the Loup Lafontaine. Travelling the roads, he menaced people but stopped to play with children. He was eventually brought down through a pact with God. This is not the only supernatural wolf story from here and every year there is a wolf festival, Festival du Loup, says Dimaline. The community continues to tell stories of the Loup-Garou or the Rougarou, similar to the communities out west and the Cajun community in Louisiana where they have an annual Rougarou Festival in Houma.

Photo courtesy of Cherie Dimaline

The writer comes from a lineage of hunters and women who told stories and made their own remedies when they weren’t purchasing salves from the ‘peddler’ who would come across the Bay once in a while.

On the other hand, some of the things I have survived have compelled me to write inclusive of difficult subjects, she says.

Her books have garnered multiple awards, maintaining a frequent presence on the Canadian bestseller’s list for the past five years.

The Marrow Thieves, a novel for young adults released in 2017, tells the story of a future world ravaged by global warming. People have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness.

The only people still able to dream are North America’s indigenous population – and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow – and dreams – means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a 15-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the ‘recruiters’ who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing ‘factories.’

Her stories have been influenced by powerful, generous women who had already done the heavy lifting of blazing the literary trail.

“I had the enormous good fortune of being taught writing and storytelling by the very best people like Lee Maracle and Maria Campbell,” she says.

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