“Mamaskatch” by Darrel J. McLeod— Building a Life

McLeod, Darrel J. “Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age”, Douglas and McIntyre, 2019

Building a Life

Amos Lassen

 

Darrel J. McLeod is immersed in his Cree family’s history, passed down in the stories of his mother, Bertha. Her stories were 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. There are stories of McLeod’s many siblings and cousins, and the smells of moose stew and wild peppermint tea. From these stories the young  Darrel learned to be fiercely proud of his heritage and to listen to the birds that will guide him throughout his life.

After a series of tragic losses, Bertha turns wild and unstable, and their home life becomes chaotic. Darrel being sweet and eager to please, 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. He also questions and struggles with his sexual identity and this is complicated by the repercussions of his abuse and his sibling’s own gender transition. “Mamaskatch” is a series of vignettes and a heartbreaking look at how traumas are passed down from one generation to the next; yet it is the uplifting story of one individual who overcame tremendous obstacles as he pursued a fulfilling and adventurous life.

 

 

This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in a world of violence and family trauma. McLeod’s writing is lyrical and gives us a powerful examination of contemporary issues, from sexual self-identification to the scars of residential school to the contemporary search for reconciliation. The word “mamaskatch” means “shared dream” in Cree, and while there are unavoidable nightmares along the journey, there are also dreams of hope, at times of exquisite beauty and renewed pride.

The book is a series of linked, story-like intervals that weave together Darrel and his family’s wounded lives. We read of her individual and collective traumas, the tragic flaws that shatter trust and dissolve relationships, the attempts to hold on to family and culture, the mysterious presence of birds and ancestral stories.

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 so he could build the foundation of what be a very fulfilling and adventurous life. “Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age” takes us into such topics as  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.”

This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in a world of violence and family trauma. McLeod’s writing is lyrical and gives us a powerful examination of contemporary issues, from sexual self-identification to the scars of residential school to the contemporary search for reconciliation. The word “mamaskatch” means “shared dream” in Cree, and while there are unavoidable nightmares along the journey, there are also dreams of hope, at times of exquisite beauty and renewed pride.

The book is a series of linked, story-like intervals that weave together Darrel and his family’s wounded lives. We read of her individual and collective traumas, the tragic flaws that shatter trust and dissolve relationships, the attempts to hold on to family and culture, the mysterious presence of birds and ancestral stories.

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 so he could build the foundation of what be a very fulfilling and adventurous life. “Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age” takes us into such topics as  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.”

This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in a world of violence and family trauma. McLeod’s writing is lyrical and gives us a powerful examination of contemporary issues, from sexual self-identification to the scars of residential school to the contemporary search for reconciliation. The word “mamaskatch” means “shared dream” in Cree, and while there are unavoidable nightmares along the journey, there are also dreams of hope, at times of exquisite beauty and renewed pride.

The book is a series of linked, story-like intervals that weave together Darrel and his family’s wounded lives. We read of her individual and collective traumas, the tragic flaws that shatter trust and dissolve relationships, the attempts to hold on to family and culture, the mysterious presence of birds and ancestral stories.

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 so he could build the foundation of what be a very fulfilling and adventurous life. “Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age” takes us into such topics as  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.”

This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in a world of violence and family trauma. McLeod’s writing is lyrical and gives us a powerful examination of contemporary issues, from sexual self-identification to the scars of residential school to the contemporary search for reconciliation. The word “mamaskatch” means “shared dream” in Cree, and while there are unavoidable nightmares along the journey, there are also dreams of hope, at times of exquisite beauty and renewed pride.

The book is a series of linked, story-like intervals that weave together Darrel and his family’s wounded lives. We read of her individual and collective traumas, the tragic flaws that shatter trust and dissolve relationships, the attempts to hold on to family and culture, the mysterious presence of birds and ancestral stories.

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 so he could build the foundation of what be a very fulfilling and adventurous life. “Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age” takes us into such topics as  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.

McLeod’s writing style is lyrical and powerfully examines contemporary issues.

 

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