Heart Berries : A Memoir
by Terese Marie Mailhot

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. 

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More About Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
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:
Entertainment Weekly
Huffington Post
The Rumpus
The New York Public Library

  • ISBN-13: 9781619023345
  • ISBN-10: 1619023342
  • Publisher: Counterpoint LLC
  • Publish Date: February 2018
  • Page Count: 160
  • Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Cultural, Ethnic & Regional - Native American & Aboriginal
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs

BookPage Reviews

Reflecting on a haunted past

BookPage Top Pick in Nonfiction, February 2018

This stunning, poetic memoir from Terese Marie Mailhot burns like hot coal. I read it in a single feverish session, completely absorbed and transported by Mailhot’s powerful and original voice. Mailhot’s story—which extends from an impoverished childhood on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia through foster care, teenage motherhood and mental illness—could seem a painful litany of misfortune were it not for the transformative alchemy of her art.

Sherman Alexie, in his introduction to this memoir, calls Heart Berries “an Iliad for the indigenous,” and recognizes Mailhot as a striking new voice in First Nation writing. The strength of her writing comes from Mailhot’s fearless embrace of emotional darkness and in her depiction of the psychic cost of living in a white man’s world. For example, after Mailhot’s mother has an intense epistolary love affair with convicted murderer Salvador Agron, her words and memories are used by the musician Paul Simon for his musical The Capeman, in which her character is reduced to an “Indian hippie chick.” Mailhot herself falls in precipitous love with her writing teacher, a passion that initially lands her in a mental ward.

Although diagnosed with bipolar II, post-traumatic stress disorder and an eating disorder, Mailhot links her illness to something she calls “Indian sick,” which is as historical as it is individual. There is “something feminine and ancestral” in her illness, which requires an acknowledgment of the generational trauma of First Nation people. Storytelling, Mailhot feels, is a first step toward healing both the individual and her people.

Situating her physical and psychic pain in context with a multigenerational focus, Mailhot crafts an intensely moving story about mothers and what they pass down to their children.


This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews