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Heart Berries
Cover of Heart Berries
Heart Berries
A Memoir
Borrow
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
A New York Times Editor's Choice
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
"A sledgehammer. . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small... What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined." —Roxane Gay, author of Hunger
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.
"I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot's deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results. I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words – but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say... [T]he writing is so good it's hard not to temporarily be distracted from the content or narrative by its brilliance...Perhaps, because this author so generously allows us to be her witness, we are somehow able to see ourselves more clearly and become better witnesses to ourselves." —Emma Watson, Official March/April selection for Our Shared Shelf
Named One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018 by:
Goodreads
Esquire
Entertainment Weekly
ELLE
Cosmopolitan
Huffington Post
B*tch
NYLON
Buzzfeed
Bustle
The Rumpus
The New York Public Library
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
A New York Times Editor's Choice
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
"A sledgehammer. . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small... What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined." —Roxane Gay, author of Hunger
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.
"I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot's deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results. I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words – but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say... [T]he writing is so good it's hard not to temporarily be distracted from the content or narrative by its brilliance...Perhaps, because this author so generously allows us to be her witness, we are somehow able to see ourselves more clearly and become better witnesses to ourselves." —Emma Watson, Official March/April selection for Our Shared Shelf
Named One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018 by:
Goodreads
Esquire
Entertainment Weekly
ELLE
Cosmopolitan
Huffington Post
B*tch
NYLON
Buzzfeed
Bustle
The Rumpus
The New York Public Library
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    INDIAN CONDITION

    1

    My story was maltreated. The words were too wrong and ugly to speak. I tried to tell someone my story, but he thought it was a hustle. He marked it as solicitation. The man took me shopping with his pity. I was silenced by charity—like so many Indians. I kept my hand out. My story became the hustle.

    Women asked me what my endgame was. I hadn't thought about it. I considered marrying one of the men and sitting with my winnings, but I was too smart to sit. I took their money and went to school. I was hungry and took more. When I gained the faculty to speak my story, I realized I had given men too much.

    The thing about women from the river is that our currents are endless. We sometimes outrun ourselves. I stopped answering men's questions or their calls.

    Women asked me for my story.

    My grandmother told me about Jesus. We knelt to pray. She told me to close my eyes. It was the only thing she asked me to do properly. She had conviction, but she also taught me to be mindless. We started recipes and lost track. We forgot ingredients. Our cakes never rose. We ate ramen every day and often left boiling pots of water on the burner.

    When she died nobody noticed me. Indian girls can be forgotten so well they forget themselves.

    My mother brought healers to our home and I thought she was trying to exorcise me—a little ghost. Psychics came. Our house was still ruptured. I started to craft ideas. I wrapped myself in a Pendleton blanket and picked blueberries. I pretended I was ancient. A healer looked at me. He was tall and his jeans were dirty. He knelt down. I thought I was in trouble, so I told him that I had been good. He said, "You don't need to be nice."

    My mother said that was when I became trouble.

    That's when my nightmares came. A spinning wheel, a white porcelain tooth, a snarling mouth, and lightning haunted me. My mother told me they were visions.

    "Turn your shirt backwards to confuse the ghosts," she said, and sent me to bed.

    My mother insisted that I embrace my power. On my first day of school I bound myself a small book. The teacher complimented my vocabulary and my mother told me school was a choice.

    She fed me traditional food. I went to bed early every night, but I never slept well.

    I fell ill with tuberculosis. Mother brought back the healers. I told them my grandmother was speaking to me. I made stories of our cooking mistakes and told them I couldn't eat anymore. I missed her food too much.

    "Does that happen to you," I said.

    "What?" Zohar, a tarot reader, asked.

    "Did you ever want to stop eating?"

    "No," she said.

    She asked my mother if she could sleep next to my bed, on the floor. She listened to me all night. Storytelling. What potential there was in being awful. My mindlessness became a gift. I didn't feel compelled to tell any moral tales or ancient ones. I learned how story was always meant to be for Indian women: immediate and necessary and fearless, like all good lies.

    My story was maltreated. I was a teenager when I got married. I wanted a safe home. Despair isn't a conduit for love. We ruined each other and then my mother died. I had to leave the reservation. I had to get my GED. I left my home because welfare was making me choose between my baby's formula or oatmeal for myself. I chose neither, and used one check for a ticket away. That's when I started to illustrate my story and exactly when it became a means of survival....

About the Author-
  • TERESE MARIE MAILHOT graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with an M.F.A. in fiction. Mailhot's work has appeared in The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Times, Carve Magazine, The Offing, The Toast, Yellow Medicine Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of several fellowships—SWAIA Discovery Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, Writing by Writers Fellowship, and the Elk Writer's Workshop Fellowship—she was recently named the Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University and resides in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Table of Contents-
  • Table of Contents 1 INDIAN CONDITION
    2 HEART BERRIES
    3 INDIAN SICK
    4 IN A PECAN FIELD
    5 YOUR BLACK EYE AND MY BIRTH
    6 I KNOW I'LL GO
    7 LITTLE MOUNTAIN WOMAN
    8 THE LEAVING DEFICIT
    9 THUNDER BEING HONEY BEAR
    10 INDIAN CONDITION
    11 BETTER PARTS
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2017
    Reflections on the turbulent life of a Native American writer.A glowing introduction from Sherman Alexie dubs Mailhot, the Saturday editor for the Rumpus, the "biological child of a broken healer and a lonely artist," and her debut memoir undeniably embodies those attributes. She was raised on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia, and her innocent youth was spent within the orbit of a doting grandmother. The author chronicles her teenage marriage to Vito, the loss of her son Isadore in court upon the birth of second son Isaiah, and how they each "ruined each other, and then my mother died." Mailhot fearlessly addresses intimately personal issues with a scorching honesty derived from psychological pain and true epiphany. She discusses her precarious affair with a writing professor, visits with her psychotherapist, who tempered her manic depression with a stay at a psychiatric facility (the "madhouse"), her prideful work as a distinguished Indian writer, and the abuses of her callous, cynical mother and "drunk savant" father. The author's bipolar condition disrupted many of her formative relationships with new men she introduced to Isaiah, only to have them fade into obscurity. She shares these anecdotes through lyrical, brooding, vastly introspective language. Her prose expresses the urgency of her life in clipped, poetic sentences that snap and surge with grief and intensive reflection. Mailhot's proclamations about her heritage, its traits, and particularly the restlessness and codependency of Indian women permeates the text: "Native women walk alone from the dances of our youth into homes they don't know for the chance to be away." Her moral crisis emerges as not one of overcoming the shame of her past, but how to live and love while reconciling her need for both connection and independence. Slim, elegiac, and delivered with an economy of meticulous prose, the book calibrates the author's history as an abused child and an adult constantly at war with the demons of mental illness.An elegant, deeply expressive meditation infused with humanity and grace.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • The New York Times "A sledgehammer . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition, and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir . . . If Heart Berries is any indication, the work to come will not just surface suppressed stories; it might give birth to new forms."
  • Esquire, 1 of 27 Most Anticipated Books of 2018 "Sometimes a writer's voice is so distinctive, so angry and messy yet wise, that her story takes on the kind of urgency that makes you turn pages faster and faster. Terese Marie Mailhot has one of those voices, and her memoir about being raised on a Canadian reservation and coming to understand what it means to be an indigenous person in modern times is breathtaking."
  • Entertainment Weekly, 1 of 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2018 "A luminous, poetic memoir."
  • NYLON, One of the Best Books of the Year, So Far "For the person who knows the power of using language to mitigate our feelings of shame. For the person who knows that shame dissipates when you figure out how to tell your story. For the person who has always been told their stories don't matter. For the person who knows that their stories are precisely the kind that matter, because it's been so long and they've never been told. For the person who knows that, after a while, it's easy to mistake pain for the truest form of intimacy. For the person who discovers that there are other ways of being close to people, ways that don't have to hurt always, even if sometimes they do. For the person who knows that truth isn't spelled with a capital T. For the person who knows that the only way out of trauma can be by meeting it head-on."
  • Marie Claire "This gut punch of a memoir . . . [is] essentially a love letter, full of humor and truth, to tough, challenging women everywhere."
  • Huffington Post, 1 of 60 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018 "Poetic is an oft-used descriptor of lovely writing, and this book seems to be something more striking than the word signifies: a memoir and a poem, a haunting and dazzlingly written narrative of Mailhot's growing up on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest."
  • Isaac Fitzgerald, TODAY, 1 of 10 Books Everyone Should Be Reading Right Now "With gorgeous language and lyricism that never sacrifices honesty and realness, Heart Berries is a brilliant look into what it means to survive, heal, lose, and love."
  • BuzzFeed, 1 of 33 Most Exciting New Books of 2018 "Powerful and raw, Heart Berries looks unflinchingly at trauma, love, pain, self-acceptance, and what it means to be a Native woman today."
  • Thrillist, One of the Best Books of 2018 (So Far) "The work is transcendent in the most literal sense, surpassing every readerly expectation about genre and form to create a truly unique book. Mailhot . . . writes deftly about mental illness and indigenous identity, about failure and yearning and ambition. And all of it is unified and amplified by Mailhot's singular voice: bold and poetic and elegant. This is a short book that packs a punch."
  • NYLON, 1 of 50 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018 "This powerful memoir reveals a life of struggle and illness, deprivation and pain, but is so full of strength in the face of adversity, that it is impossible not to read it and feel real hope and the possibility of triumph and renewal, no matter how dark things seem . . . The result is this singularly moving, poetic book, one full of rage and desire, fear and brilliance. Prepare for it to sink its teeth into your very heart."
  • Roxane Gay, author of Hunger "Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small... What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined."
  • Emma Watson, Official March/April selection for Our Shared Shelf "I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot's deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results. I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words – but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say... [T]he writing is so good it's hard not to temporarily be distracted from the content or narrative by its brilliance...Perhaps, because this author so generously allows us to be her...
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A Memoir
Terese Marie Mailhot
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