Congratulations to Darrel J. McLeod! His memoir, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, is the winner of this year's Governor General's Literary Award in the English Non-fiction category. Mamaskatch was among the 70 Canadian books considered to be the best published this year across seven categories, written in both English and French. The awards will be presented by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, in Ottawa on November 28, 2018.
Beautifully written, honest and thought-provoking, 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. The Canada Council for the Arts writes that "Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age dares to immerse readers in provocative contemporary issues including 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."
Darrel J. McLeod is Cree from treaty eight territory in Northern Alberta. Before deciding to pursue writing in his retirement, he was a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. He holds degrees in French literature and Education from the University of British Columbia. He lives in Sooke, BC, and is working on a second memoir following the events in Mamaskatch. In the spring of 2018, he was accepted into the Banff Writing Studio to advance his first work of fiction.