Teresa Marie Mailhot Pages: 142 Published: 2018
The book: The author grew up on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in Canada. Her memoir, which she began writing while a patient in a mental institution, is told in a collection of essays in which she seems to unravel her traumatic past to get to a more hopeful future.
You might like it because: Mailhot writes with an authentic, and at times shockingly candid, voice unlike anything else I have read. She skillfully lays bare her thoughts and emotions to the reader so we feel as if we are looking out at the world from inside her head and her heart.
What did other people say?
“Don’t be fooled by the title. Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, published under the romantic, rather forgettable name “Heart Berries,” is a sledgehammer.” –The New York Times
“Sharp and scorching, her approach walks the knife’s edge between accessibility and experimentation, rendering in exacting detail what it’s like to be ‘ill and alone and intelligent.’”– Chicago Tribune
“In short, the book does everything it technically shouldn’t, brushing off the familiar regimen prescribed by MFA programs, and slipping the strictures of commercial publishing. The thrilling part is, it works.” – The Atlantic
Awards & Recognition:
A New York Times Best Seller
How quickly will you get into the book? Mailhot’s writing pulled me in from the first page. It’s a short book, which is just as well because I could not put it down.
You might not like it because: This memoir breaks the rules; it’s a collection of essays and it’s written in a unique style – it’s as if the author is sharing her innermost thoughts with you as she works through them, rather than a straightforward chronologically told story of her life. If you like memoir that follows a traditional format, this may not be the book for you.
What might you read next?
Mailhot mentioned in an interview for The Atlantic that Maggie Nelson’s Bluets gave her the courage to break the rules. Read it for yourself.
In an interview included in the back of Heart Berries, the author mentions a number of indigenous female writers who have authored memoirs, one of which is Ellisa Washuta. You might want to pick up her memoir My Body is a Book of Rules.
Alternatively, switch to fiction and read Ceremony by Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko, who is also mentioned by Mailhot.
Or read There There, a novel by Tommy Orange, who, like Mailhot, is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts.