Staff Review: Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod

Review written by Kayla

I read this book after a co-worker suggested it to me, and was so impressed. As a Metis person, I am often looking for titles I feel I can relate to and gain perspective from- and this book brought me on a roller coaster of feelings. I felt high and I felt low, and at times even got butterflies in my stomach. 

Darrel J. McLeod gives us a look through the lens of a two-spirited Cree man, whose family has endured intergenerational trauma from the Residential school Era. In “Mamaskatch“, we journey with him through his childhood, teen years, early adulthood and even get to glimpse into the spirit world. 

Mamaskatch is not only the title of this book, but is mentioned throughout the pages, and loosely translates to “how strange” or “it’s a miracle”. It’s the perfect title for this book, as it is a wonder that after all Darrel has been through, he rises above it all. This is a true underdog story, where the reader is rooting for Darrel to come out on top.

Moving from the reserve to a small, well-to-do city, Darrel attends mostly all white schools. There he is faced with racism, lateral violence and abuse. He is often made to play the role of a stereotypical “Indian”, which still does not impress his grade school teachers or classmates. 

Darrel cherishes listening to his Mother speak her native tongue, but he cannot fully understand as he does not speak the language himself. Later on in the book, we learn that this broken tie to traditional language can be reclaimed through dreams, by being in tune with one’s own spirit and through his healing journey.

Sexual tension, turmoil and themes of identity crisis arise as Darrel questions his sexual urges. After enduring sexual abuse from a trusted caregiver and having had two family members go through painful, difficult gender reassignment surgeries makes this an even more difficult terrain to navigate.

This book was really relatable, and I would recommend it to anyone who has had a hard time transitioning from teen to adult years, or just wants an easy read that they cannot put down. I was hooked on the first page and invested in the story immediately. I also finished this book in record time and put the second on hold, as I couldn’t wait to read about what else Darrel was going to write. 

Walk with Darrel through a coming of age book that leaves the reader with newfound hope and courage. Having to face the truth, even in the darkest parts of one’s self – in order to begin a new life chapter where he can reclaim his Indigenous identity and honor his Mother’s name.

4 thoughts on “Staff Review: Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod

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  1. Excellent review of this book, has certainly peaked my interest in picking this up from the library before the Christmas holidays.

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