Darrel McLeod wins a top literary award for 'Mamaskatch, A Cree Coming of Age'

Vincent Schilling

McCleod wins the Governor General's Literary Award, one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious awards, and $25,000

Darrel J. McCleod, Cree from Treaty Eight Territory, Alberta, Canada, has just been awarded the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction, one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious awards, which includes a $25,000 prize for his unflinching book on inter-generational trauma, and the effects of residential schools on his family, titled: Mamaskatch, A Cree Coming of Age.

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, by Darrel J. McLeod wins the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction

In several CBC interviews, McCleod, a former federal chief negotiator of land claims and jazz musician and now acclaimed and internationally-recognized indigenous author discussed the meaning of the title and revealed how the tragic circumstances surrounding a difficult upbringing and his mother’s experience in residential schools, affected his life.

You can listen to a CBC radio interview of McCleod on the CBC here.

As the CBC article How writing about his difficult childhood helped Darrel J. McLeod heal — and help others in the process describes the book: “McLeod bares the raw pain of his childhood on the page, recounting what it means to be a receiver of inter-generational trauma, while also enduring racism and abuse from non-Indigenous people in Canada.”

The article also states how he went about the process which included reading Margaret Laurence’s book, The Diviners, in which the main character would sit by a window and watch the river and write, how he and two French professors would sit at their house and discuss his life story, and how as a former school principal, he would tell stories with teachers. One day an elder, by the name of Catherine Bird, told him, 'Darrel you have to write this story down. It will help somebody someday.'

McCleod then told the CBC, “I knew it was one of those magical moments where it wasn't just Catherine Bird speaking. It was the universe.”

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age is described in part on the Douglas & McIntyre website as follows:

“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 … 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.”

For more information visit the Douglas & McIntyre website:

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