A Cree Coming of Age

Book - 2018
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"Growing up in the tiny village of Smith, Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod was surrounded by his Cree family’s history. In shifting and unpredictable stories, his mother, Bertha, shared narratives of their culture, their family and the cruelty that she and her sisters endured in residential school. McLeod was comforted by her presence and that of his many siblings and cousins, the smells of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, and his deep love of the landscape. Bertha taught him to be fiercely proud of his heritage and to listen to the birds that would return to watch over and guide him at key junctures of his life. However, in a spiral of events, Darrel’s mother turned wild and unstable, and their home life became chaotic. Sweet and innocent by nature, Darrel struggled to maintain his grades and pursue an interest in music while changing homes many times, witnessing violence, caring for his younger siblings and suffering abuse at the hands of his surrogate father. Meanwhile, his sibling’s gender transition provoked Darrel to deeply question his own sexual identity. The fractured narrative of Mamaskatch mirrors Bertha’s attempts to reckon with the trauma and abuse she faced in her own life, and captures an intensely moving portrait of a family of strong personalities, deep ties and the shared history that both binds and haunts them... Mamaskatch—named for the Cree word used as a response to dreams shared—is ultimately an uplifting account of overcoming personal and societal obstacles. In spite of the traumas of Darrel’s childhood, deep and mysterious forces handed down by his mother helped him survive and thrive: her love and strength stayed with him to build the foundation of what would come to be a very fulfilling and adventurous life."--
Publisher: Madeira Park, BC : Douglas & McIntyre, [2018]
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781771622004
Branch Call Number: 305.897323 MCLEO
Characteristics: 228 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Jul 08, 2020

A sad and shocking memoir told in a series of vignettes about the author's childhood and life as a young Cree man who suffered physical, mental, sexual and religious abuse at a very young age. The subtitle "A Cree Coming of Age" really hit me when I realized how quickly Darrel had to grow up and become responsible for his mother and for protecting his younger siblings from his mother. It was sickening to read about how guilty Darrel felt about being abused; he somehow thought it was his fault and suffered so much shame. I wanted to reach through the screen and take that little 12 year old Darrel in my arms and say "It's not your fault, you did nothing wrong." Through his expressive stories the reader goes on a journey with Darrel to begin healing and acceptance of his true spirit and being. It is very hard to read but I am glad I read it.

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