Review of Funeral Songs for Dying Girls

Funeral Songs for Dying GirlsFuneral Songs for Dying Girls
by Cherie Dimaline
High School    Tundra    280 pp.
4/23    9780735265639    $17.99
e-book ed.  9780735265646    $10.99

First-person narrator Winifred, a Canadian teen of Métis and European descent, lives in present-day Toronto with her father, who is a crematory operator, on the grounds of the cemetery, between “the grubby and the austere”—a ravine where drug users hang out, and the gentrified neighborhood of Cabbagetown. Winifred is ostracized at school because of her morbid surroundings, and as she sees it, she has “lived a fairy-tale childhood. Like, a Grimm’s fairy tale.” Her own mother’s ashes are half buried in the cemetery and half kept in the house, and her father lives a “half-life,” yearning for his lost love. Ghosts haunt Winifred, both figuratively and literally, but Dimaline’s (The Marrow Thieves) intense, bittersweet, and often funny novel is more than a ghost story. Extended portions about the life and death of Phil, a sympathetically rendered ghost character who becomes one of Winifred’s first loves, allude to the real-life neglected epidemic of MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People). Through this novel, Dimaline (Métis Nation of Ontario) honors those lost; as ­Winifred’s Métis auntie says, “So lucky, you, to live in this place with so many people. Imagine a world without your dead? I’d be so lonely walking around by yourself like that.”

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Lara K. Aase

Lara K. Aase teaches American Indian youth literature and other AIS courses at California State University San Marcos. She has an MA in comparative literature (Spanish/English) from the University of New Mexico and an MLIS from the University of Washington.

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