Coming of Age in Indigenous Science Fiction

Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves and D’Arcy McNickle’s Runner in the Sun

  • Gwen Rose University of Saskatchewan
Keywords: Young Adult, Bildungsroman, Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Indigenous, Indigenous Literature, Literature


Utilizing Glen Sean Coulthard's theory of grounded normativity, this paper analyzes the Bildungsroman narratives of the protagonists in two Indigenous works of young adult speculative fiction: D'Arcy McNickle's Runner in the Sun and Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves. Grounded normativity stresses a connection to land and community, and for Salt and French, becomes the link to their traditional practices and knowledge that is necessary for their journeys to adulthood to succeed. More than just traditional Bildungsromane chronicalling the coming of age of teenagers, grounded normativity is a vital component of their growth into individuals who can lead their communities, carry on traditional practices into the future, and enact, in effect, uniquely Indigenous Bildungsromane. Where each young man begins as an impetuous and impatient teenager, they grow in accordance with the level of respect they develop for grounded normativity, that is, the wisdom and knowledges of their elders, and a deep and fulfilling connection to the land. In novels with disparate settings, the two young men still enact similar journeys, and the Bildungsroman of each is not concerned merely with their physical travels or completion or arbirtrary tasks, but with their maturation in keeping with the standards of their peoples, be they pre-Columbian Pueble for Salt, or Metis for French. Grounded normativity plays a crucial role in this stage for Salt and French, demonstrating the vitality of Indigenous practies and worldviews and simultaneously transcending the boundaries of the European Bildungsroman.