ISBN-10: 1571313877
ISBN-13: 9781571313874
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 06/11/2019
Dimensions: 8.50" L, 5.40" W, 0.70" H

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age


Price: $16.00

In stock


As a small boy in remote Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod is immersed in his Cree family’s history, passed down in the stories of his mother, Bertha. There he is surrounded by her tales of joy and horror–of the strong men in their family, of her love for Darrel, and of the cruelty she and her sisters endured in residential school–as well as his many siblings and cousins, and the smells of moose stew and wild peppermint tea. And there young Darrel learns to be fiercely proud of his heritage and to listen to the birds that will guide him throughout his life.


But after a series of tragic losses, Bertha turns wild and unstable, and their home life becomes chaotic. Sweet and eager to please, Darrel struggles to maintain his grades and pursue interests in music and science while changing homes, witnessing domestic violence, caring for his younger siblings, and suffering abuse at the hands of his brother-in-law. Meanwhile, he begins to question and grapple with his sexual identity–a reckoning complicated by the repercussions of his abuse and his sibling’s own gender transition.


Thrillingly written in a series of fractured vignettes, and unflinchingly honest, Mamaskatch–“It’s a wonder!” in Cree–is a heartbreaking account of how traumas are passed down from one generation to the next, and an uplifting story of one individual who overcame enormous obstacles in pursuit of a fulfilling and adventurous life.

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Praise for Mamaskatch

Mamaskatch reminded me of my childhood and the Indigenous people I love dearly. The hard and brilliant life breathing on the pages brought me to tears, to joy, and to grace. Darrel J. McLeod tells a coming-of-age tale familiar to many Indigenous people, but our histories, and our families' truths, are mostly unwritten. The work he's doing is powerful and overdue.–Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries

Affecting and full of heart . . . Through these fragmented stories, we see McLeod navigating conflicting desires within his sexual, spiritual, and native identities, and ultimately thriving. –BuzzFeed

McLeod tells [his story] movingly and beautifully. It's a dark book, but a hopeful one too, as McLeod finds ways of understanding and coming to terms with his complicated life. –Book Riot

A window into the world of the Cree . . . This is not your ordinary coming-of-age story; it's a multilayered account of a boy growing into manhood questioning his own gender identity while also confronting racism and bullying. Library Journal

McLeod's memoir is one that will get under your skin for so many reasons, and then live there. The horrors of residential schools, the complications of being Indigenous in a world that wishes we would go away, and family ties that stretch to the point of breaking in almost every way imaginable, not to mention struggles with identity and sexuality. It may sound like too much for one narrative to support, but McLeod handles it with the light, magical touch of a born storyteller. This story is one you won't soon forget. Heartbreaking, uplifting, terrifying . . . yes, all these things, and more. –Chris La Tray, Fact & Fiction

Mamaskatch is no easy read, but it's an absolutely necessary one. McLeod recounts snapshots throughout his life, including his mother's alcoholism, numerous accounts of sexual abuse, and coming up gay in a colonized Canada, where the whites have attempted to convert Natives to Catholicism. Mamaskatch is a very personal memoir that also documents the long-lasting aftermath of what colonization has done to Native communities. This book will break your heart, and it will make you think about a lot of things in North American history that need to be brought to light. Essential. –Andrew King, University Book Store

The poignant reflections of a Cree family in 20th century Canada, Mamaskatch is one of the best memoirs I've experienced! Filled with the questioning and self-doubts of a child suffering abuse after abuse from abuser after abuser, McLeod's prose exposes the strength of someone who has survived: 'Mamaskatch! We're free!' –Randy Schiller, Left Bank Books

"A haunting and joyful ode to the resilience of an often complicated, always extraordinary mother. Intimate and affecting, Mamaskatch asks complex questions about the legacies we inherit and the way in which self-invention is a crucial act of survival."–Esi Edugyan, author of Washington Black

"Mamaskatch dares to immerse readers in provocative contemporary issues including gender fluidity, familial violence, and transcultural hybridity. A fast-moving, intimate memoir of dreams and nightmares–lyrical and gritty, raw and vulnerable, told without pity, but with phoenix-like strength."–Jury Citation, Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction

"A profound and tender love song, an elegy to a wounded family, and an unsparing, exquisitely moving chronicle of growing up 'Nehiyaw' (Cree). Like the birdsong his mother taught him to understand, McLeod's voice is magical; it will lift and carry you through bone-breaking grief with grit, optimism and wry, life-saving humour. You will not leave this book unchanged."Vancouver Sun

"A powerful, unflinching work of non-fiction, one that isn't afraid to leave itself raw and unfinished, nodding to the stories that are yet to come. . . . The figures McLeod writes about in Mamaskatch shimmer in the best kind of way. . . . Nothing, however, appears as brightly or as darkly as Bertha. The parts of the book written from her perspective pulse with their own kind of intensity. . . . Mamaskatch embodies the recognition of the way stories can help to pull one through the darkest moments."Quill & Quire

"A heart-wrenching mîwâsin memoir full of vignettes that are so intricately woven that they guide you through with grace, sâkihiwêwin, humour, and maskihkîy. This is a narrative built through continuums that detail the lives of the McLeod family through their queer travails, trans realities, bannock and stew conversations, and a plethora of intergenerational traumas and triumphs. I can feel the warm embrace of the Three Sisters wrapping around me as I read this, that heart-drum beat resounding beneath its literary cadences, the frigidity of the Athabasca kissing my heels, and a narrator who teaches me from his very first passage in this memoir that a good story is a medicine song that re-members and re-animates, in true nehiyawewin fashion, those who have paved the way for us and those for whom we pave."–Joshua Whitehead, author of Jonny Appleseed

"Honestly stunning. McLeod's clear writing lays bare his complicated ties to his family, his lovers and his country in a memoir that moved and haunted me."–Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster

"A compelling read that shows the heartbreaking results of imposed oppression. McLeod has identity problems of many kinds and the result is a life full of chaos. The gradual climb out of that dark place is touching."–Bev Sellars, author of They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School

"Reading the text was like diving into the eternity of dreams and being paralyzed by a nightmare. However, there is sunrise. Told candidly and with heartbreaking honesty, McLeod's memoir shows how survival beckoned and he held on to the spirit of his ancestors–the love that no one can ever sever. He lives for all of us."–Louise Bernice Halfe, author of Burning in this Midnight Dream

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ISBN-10: 1571313877
ISBN-13: 9781571313874
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 06/11/2019
Dimensions: 8.50" L, 5.40" W, 0.70" H
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