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 fatheran abusive drunk and a brilliant artistwho 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.
Terese Marie Mailhot (born 15 June 1983) is a First Nation Canadian writer, journalist, memoirist, and teacher.
Mailhot grew up in Seabird Island, British Columbia, on the Seabird Island First Nation reservation. Her mother, Wahzinak, was a healer, social worker, poet, and radical activist, and her father, Ken Mailhot, was an artist.
Mailhot's background is Nlaka'pamux, part of the indigenous First Nations people of the Interior Salish language group in southern British Columbia. Her maternal grandmother, who she was close to, was raised in the brutal Canadian Indian residential school system. Mailhot got her GED and attended community college. Mailhot graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from New Mexico State University. In 2016, Mailhot received an MFA in fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Mailhot was a columnist at Indian Country Today and was Saturday Editor at The Rumpus. She taught English and composition at Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
In 2017, Mailhot became a post-doctoral fellow at the English Department at Purdue University, where she works with the Native American Educational and Cultural Center. Roxane Gay is a colleague there. Mailhot is also a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
In 2018, Mailhot released her debut book, Heart Berries: A Memoir. Heart Berries deals with sexual abuse, trauma, violence, substance abuse, going hungry, being poor, and neglect. Mailhot has said she sees her journey as being one that reflects intergenerational trauma and genocide. She uses the term "Indian sick" to describe the idea of cleansing the heart and mind in a spiritual process, which is how her community often processes these experiences. The title Heart Berries comes from a story about the healer O’dimin, the Heart Berry Boy, that an Ojibwe friend who is a language teacher told her. The book received overwhelmingly positive reviews in both popular and specialist sources. In March 2018, actress Emma Watson chose Mailhot's book as one of the monthly selections for her book club on Goodreads. Heart Berries is a New York Times bestseller.
Mailhot began writing her memoir while she was institutionalized in a mental institution. Mailhot had committed herself after having a mental breakdown related to dealing with childhood sexual abuse by her father. The book consists of many essays that Mailhot wrote during her MFA program. Some of the book is written from Mailhot to her partner, Casey Gray, using an epistolary approach to reflecting on memories of the past.