I am so excited to welcome Terese Marie Mailhot to the blog today, and introduce her and her searingly beautiful memoir to the Deb community!
About Heart Berries:
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation 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. (Goodreads)
But it’s a book that can’t be reduced to a single paragraph. It’s filled with longing and heartbreak and poetry.
Terese Mailhot and I are I the same Facebook Binders group, and I watched alongside her as Heart Berries took the literary world by storm. Called a sledgehammer by the New York Times, “perfect” by Emma Watson, and “brilliance both raw and refined” by Roxane Gay, this book is all of that and more. The story will make you cry, but so, too, will the exquisite writing.
Mailhot writes that her mother said:
“Men will never love you,” she said once. “They’ll use you up, and, when you’re bone dry and it’s your time to write, you’ll be alone without a goddamn typewriter to your name.”
But Mailhot did write, and the world welcomed her words. I’m posting the blurbs in full—because they are amazing, and if you are someone who was told by the world that your words don’t matter, you should read these and know there is a different world waiting to celebrate you.
For a chance to win a copy of Heart Berries, share our post on Facebook or retweet the following:
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) July 21, 2018
Now, on to the virtual interview:
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
Lidia Yuknavitch’s Chronology of Water is such a wonderful book. She’s one of the realest writers out here, and she’s about sisterhood, and advocacy, and that book is amazing. It deals with viscera and heart/heartbreak. The work is poetic. There is a chapter where the work is in first person plural, and it’s all run-on sentences, and you barely notice. That’s craft and experiment and it feels effortless—the way it should.
Who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters?
Non-fiction: Roxane Gay in Hunger. She placed me in her experience and selected the right things to illustrate her life, dealing with trauma, and living in the body. From television to family issues, I’m invested in every line. People don’t think in non-fiction we deal with characterization, but if we wrote the truth of our lives, and every aching thought or complaint, the reader wouldn’t be as invested as when we cultivate an experience.
The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
I had published a short story in a notable publication, and an agent solicited me for work. I remember sending it through and waiting for weeks, and then the reply was essentially, “We don’t know what this is or how we would sell it.”
I looked at their roster, and it was detective novels and educational texts. It was then I realized I needed to find the right people to handle my book, and a simple Google would have told me that my work wouldn’t have been palatable to this agency.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
There’s room at the table. There’s a home for your work. Don’t let people discourage you. Take critique, sure—take the critique you know will work. Believe in your voice. Revise. Revise. Revise. Don’t give up. It’s never too late. All those clichés. I mean it.
Do you have any phobias?
I don’t like the word porous. I do not like the pores on certain mushrooms.
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 writing appears in West Branch, Guernica, Pacific Standard, Elle, 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. (Goodreads)
Find her online: