Stories can help us make sense of the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in Darrel J. McLeod’s memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. Growing up in small town northern Alberta, McLeod’s life was marked by his mother Bertha’s horrific experiences at residential school, leading to a life of violence, instability and poverty. Yet the stories of Cree culture and history that Bertha told her children had a lasting impact on McLeod, acting as companions to him as he journeyed down some interesting and adventurous paths in his life, including becoming a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and earning a degree in French literature. Mamaskatch, named after the Cree word that ranges in meaning from ‘how strange’ to ‘it’s a miracle,’ is a powerful, honest, and uplifting work, was a finalist for the RBC Taylor Prize and won the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction.
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