August 31, 2018 7 PM at Vroman’s: Otherwise, a reading series dedicated to supporting the work of outsider artists, is proud to bring together two authors whose work breaks rank and defies expectations of form and sentiment.
Merritt Tierce will moderate a conversation between Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries, and Elissa Washuta, author of My Body Is a Book of Rules. This discussion will traverse embodied selves, sexuality and art, mental states and art, trauma and art, and how we enact and live within and reject gendered and racialized identity.
Heart Berries: A Memoir
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. (Counterpoint Press)
Terese Mailhot is from Seabird Island Band. She graduated with an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She served as Saturday Editor at The Rumpus and was a columnist at Indian Country Today. Her work appears in Guernica, Pacific Standard, Elle, West Branch, Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, The LA Times, and elsewhere. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling Heart Berries: A Memoir. She serves as faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts and she’s a Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University.
“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
Terese on The Daily Show
“The Emotion of the Moment: Talking with Terese Marie Mailhot” by Monet Patrice Thomas in The Rumpus
My Body Is a Book of Rules
As Elissa Washuta makes the transition from college kid to independent adult, she finds herself overwhelmed by the calamities piling up in her brain. When her mood-stabilizing medications aren’t threatening her life, they’re shoving her from depression to mania and back in the space of an hour. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt; mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. Sifting through the scraps of her past in seventeen formally inventive chapters, Washuta aligns the strictures of her Catholic school education with Cosmopolitan‘s mandates for womanhood, views memories through the distorting lens of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and contrasts her bipolar highs and lows with those of Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain. Built on the bones of fundamental identity questions as contorted by a distressed brain, My Body Is a Book of Rules pulls no punches in its self-deprecating and ferocious look at human fallibility. (Red Hen Press)
Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a writer of personal essays and memoir. She is the author of two books, Starvation Mode and My Body Is a Book of Rules, named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Exquisite Vessel: Shapes of Native Nonfiction, forthcoming from University of Washington Press. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, 4Culture, Potlatch Fund, and Hugo House. Elissa is an assistant professor of English at the Ohio State University. (photo by Andrew Swanson)
“Bodies are us. And not. How do we figure out which is which? Elissa Washuta takes you on a fearless ride of sex, drugs, mood disorders, self-improvement, dieting, internet dating, ethnic identity, and why she isn’t Catholic anymore. My Body Is a Book of Rules is a funny, scary, unpredictable book; it reads like the inside of your own head.” —Sallie Tisdale
Elissa reading at Institute of American Indian Arts, January 2017
“Native Voices Won’t Be Silenced: Talking with Elissa Washuta about trauma, authenticity & Native American Heritage Month” by Nichole L. Reber in Electric Literature
Moderator, Merritt Tierce
Merritt Tierce was born and raised in Texas, graduated from college at nineteen, and waited tables for ten years before attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award in 2011 and was a 2013 National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Author.
Her first book, the novel Love Me Back, was shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize for debut fiction and won the 2014 Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. Love Me Back was named a best book of 2014 by The Chicago Tribune and Electric Literature and was also published in the UK, Italy, and Spain.
Tierce’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Oxford American, New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, Southwest Review, and online at The Paris Review, Electric Literature, Marie-Claire, and Cosmopolitan, among other magazines and publications.
She has been a fellow at the Yaddo, MacDowell, Willapa Bay, and Can Cab artists’ colonies, and at Writers Omi at Ledig House. She slaughtered the field at Literary Death Match.
Merritt served as the Executive Director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, a nonprofit abortion fund based in Dallas, from 2011 to 2014.
She volunteered and worked for the TEA Fund from its founding in 2004, and co-wrote the abortion play One in 3 with screenwriter and activist Gretchen Dyer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Victoria Loe Hicks. One in 3 played to sold out houses for most of its three-week run, and stimulated a local conversation about the reality of abortion in women’s lives.
Merritt is currently a staff writer on the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. She lives in Los Angeles.
8/31/2018 Vroman’s Bookstore @ 7:00 PM:
Are You Your Mind? A Conversation in the Otherwise Reading Series