Guernica Magazine

Terese Mailhot: Truth Is My Aesthetic

The author on leaving the reservation, breaking silence, and embracing complicated cross-cultural love. The post Terese Mailhot: Truth Is My Aesthetic appeared first on Guernica.
Courtesy of Terese Mailhot.

In Terese Mailhot’s debut memoir, Heart Berries, she traces her coming of age story on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation, writing candidly about the love and violence she experienced. When a relationship with a white man ignites a passion that finds her hospitalized and confronting unreconciled childhood trauma, she gets diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder. To survive, she picks up a notebook and begins to write her way out, weaving together both the beautiful and ugly elements of her upbringing.

Her story is surprising and illuminating, pushing away from traditional narratives and expected boundaries. The spare and profound prose imitates the Salish art of Mailhot’s heritage, a gift her father possessed but was unable to actualize. Her own gift is the ability to speak the truth without fear of consequence. She understands the responsibility that comes with that power, and this book documents her life’s dedication to the task.

Mailhot graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Times, Carve Magazine, The Offing, The Toast, Yellow Medicine Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of several fellowships—including the SWAIA Discovery Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, Writing by Writers Fellowship, and the Elk Writer’s Workshop Fellowship—she was recently named the Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University.

—Kelly Thompson for Guernica

In “,” an essay you penned for , you wrote, “I have stopped existing in the binary my parents created for me. White people are bad or good, colonization happened and then what came was reactionary, reclamation—all we could do, and have been doing, is recovery.” What empowered you to transcend that

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