"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. 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."--
Shattering. Beautiful. Agonizing. Necessary.
I will never, ever read this book again. I'm glad I borrowed it from the library so it will not be in my home. This isn't a story I want to have exerting its metaphysical gravity on me while I'm sleeping.
For these reasons, Heart Berries is a stellar read. But…
Mailhot has some reason to be angry. I understand. She’s been through several toxic relationships and many difficult situations. But her answer is to perpetuate stereotypes and justify her own toxic response. It’s all very honest, but it doesn’t give me much hope for the future. Though it’s beautifully written and very heartfelt on one hand, on the other, Heart Berries is little more than a highly intelligent Fuck Off note. Rather than respond with my own vitriol, I’m just going to stuff it back into the pages of this book and move onto the next.
Finding one's truth and taking ownership and authorship of one's story are life-changing! In recent memory I cannot think of a book, fiction or non-fiction, which illustrates this power as deeply or as
"As an Indian woman, I resist the urge to bleed out on a page, to impart the story of my drunken father. It was dangerous to be alone with him, as it was dangerous to forgive, as it was dangerous to say he was a monster. If he were a monster, that would make me part monster, part Indian. It is my politic to write the humanity in my characters, and subvert the stereotypes. Isn't that my duty as an Indian writer? But what part of him was subversion?"
The language she uses is... I cannot find the perfect word at the moment.
"I know the limit of what I can contain in each day. Each child, woman, and man should know a limit of containment. Nobody should be asked to hold more."
An essential read for Indigenous women, yet I would recommend this to everyone, especially those with trauma in their past -- or those who aren't the picture of pristine mental health. Not that a white woman could ever walk in the same shoes as an Indigenous woman, but because there are parallels between the experiences in coming of age, mental illness, broken hearts, deep-rooted parental scars, and what it takes to begin healing.
(I love that her author photograph was credited to her son, Isaiah.)
"Love is tactile learning, always, first and foremost."
"I don't feel liberated from the governing presence of tragedy. The way in which people frame our work, and the way our work exists, or is canonized--we are not liberated from injustice; we're anchored to it. It feels inescapable and part of the zeitgeist of Indian in the twenty-first century, or every century since they came, which doesn't limit me, or us, but limits the way we are seen and spoken about. It's unfortunate, and real to me." (from the Afterword)
Also, the author goes on and on about
In the end, I still find value in reading about a perspective so different from my own and admire Mailhot's abilities as a wordsmith
“I think self-esteem is a white invention to further separate one person from another. It asks people to assess their values and implies people have worth. It seems like identity capitalism.”
“I felt breathless, like every question was a step up a stairway.”
I listened to this short memoir, but now I want to read it; I want my eyes to eat up her words. Her prose is transcendent. Mailhot, hasn't exactly had the easiest of lives, but she is able to convey the beauty in her struggles and challenges. What a writer. I cannot wait to read more from her. I am ready for the Indigenous Renaissance.
Her subject is bleak – physical and sexual abuse,
Her honesty wrapped in beautifully crafted sentences is searing.
This is her first book. I'll certainly be looking for more from this author.
I received a copy of the audiobook through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program. To me, this is a book that would be better to be read as a print copy.
First, reading this in print would have given me the chance to savor the words.
Second, the reader's intonation was consistently one of wounded anger, with little variation of tone. While this may well be the perfect tone for the author's thoughts, four hours of it becomes overly long.
Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries was small, but it packed an emotional punch. In her memoir, Mailhot doesn’t hold anything back as
Heart Berries was told in a fragmented, stream-of-conscious style series of essays. I did have a little trouble getting into the writing style, but once I fell into a rhythm, it was easier to follow Mailhot’s voice and thoughts.
Mailhot is an interesting woman who has been through so much. This is one memoir that I can see myself reading again and again – and getting something new out of it each time.
Thank you to LibraryThing and Tantor Audio for a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review!
Native women walk alone from the dances of our youth into homes they don’t know for the chance to be away’
The memoir, like the life she is describing, frequently seems confusing and chaotic. Written in a non-linear manner, she often leaves holes in the narrative only to later show that these holes were not just holes in the narrative but in her memory, memories she finally recovers with the aid of psychotherapy, medication, and almost cruel self-examination. But this chaos, rather than weakening the story, make it that much more powerful. She reveals how much she has survived and, in the end, how far she has come but there is no sense of relief or closure, not for her and not for First Nations.
Heart Berries is a book almost lyrical in its prose, at times beautiful, elegant, raw, poignant, angry, and insightful. I would be lying if I said it was an easy read but it is an important one. A definite high recommendation from me.
Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Counterpoint for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
Recommended to those who like their memoirs brief and poetic.
Please note that I received an advanced reader's copy of this book through my employer, with no expectation that I would review it or give it a positive review.
Advanced Reader's Copy provided by Edelweiss.
QOTD: What memoirs did you read this year that you loved?
Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is one of my favorite memoirs I read this year. I read this one back in July and it is only now that I can fully process
Mailhot takes you through her battles with mental illness, the history and trauma of Indigenous people, motherhood and longing to be loved. The book reads like an open wound as she picks away at the scabs and scars that are left behind from her trauma. You especially see this in the ways that she speaks directly to the pain she feels of not being seen and loved by her children's father and how that pain almost mirrors "madness".
The writing is absolutely exquisite. I highlighted so many passages that need further introspection. I will definitely reread this one because I feel like it will hit differently every time. What stays with me the most is how she writes about Indigenous women's pain and explains how humanity was born from pain. It is felt on every page. The quote I still think about is: "My people cultivated pain. In the way that god cultivated his garden, with the foresight that he could not contain or protect the life within it. Humanity was born out of pain." She's not afraid to speak about it and boldly calls it out. This book is one that haunts me because of it's unflinching manner and the way it bravely speaks truth to power.
poetic and raw, loaded with emotion and meaning (though often I am not sure what exactly the meaning is)--an extremely talented writer
old lady reader warnings: contains numerous f-bombs and explicit situations.
Heart Berries is Terese Marie Mailhot's memoir about life and coming-of-age as a First Nations woman in the Pacific Northwest. The book jumps around in time, with particular emphasis on various facets of Mailhot's experience of parenthood, both
I listened to this as an audiobook, and I'm not sure that I'd recommend it in that format. The audio itself is totally fine, bu the poetic and extremely nonlinear nature of the writing would, I think, be better suited to a physical page, so that you can reread and go back as necessary--I found that I got lost/confused a lot. The emotions in this book are really raw and powerful, however. I do hope to reread this sometime in physical format, and I suspect that my rating will go up at that point.