Writing as a Form of Healing in Mailhot’s “Heart Berries”

“Terese Marie Mailhot, author of the bestselling memoir ‘Heart Berries’”. Digital Image. Tulsa People. 18 December 2019. Retrieved from www.tulsapeople.com. 8 November 2020.
“‘Heart Berries’ by Terese Marie Mailhot”. Digital Image. Chicago Tribune. 2 February 2018. Retrieved from www.chicagotribune.com 4 November 2020.
@emmawatson. “‘Nothing is too ugly for this world, I think it’s just that people pretend not to see.’ @oursharedshelf’s March/April pick is Heart Berries, the touching debut memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot; an unapologetically honest and immensely inspiring book. Read my OSS letter here: http://bit.ly/2GozZ8p #oursharedself” Instagram, 13 March 2018. https://www.instagram.com/p/BgSPYbPBm6t/?utm_source=ig_embed.
@TereseMarieM. “*gets married *has his baby *married for a few years now *sees my husband listed as my spouse on my Wikipedia: ‘This feels so final. This is for real for real. Wow. Ok’.” Twitter, 4 January 2019. https://twitter.com/TereseMarieM/status/1081268326117060611.

“Nothing is too ugly for this world, I think. It’s just that people pretend not to see” (21)

She starts by recounting the archetypal “Indian Condition”, one in which Indigenous women are “silenced by charity”, taught “to be mindless” and “forgotten so well [that] they forget themselves” (1–2). She unpacks this tendency for Indigenous women to be forgotten and have their stories silenced, and the effects this maltreatment has on the women themselves. She notes her desire to “hear the world, but the glass was too thick”, speaking to the tendency for society to exclude Indigenous women, overlook their experiences and disallow them from being considered anything but the postmodern Other woman (23).

@TereseMarie M. “I’m often asked how I can talk about trauma and abuse. I tell every reader, every bright student, that the shame doesn’t belong to me. I’m not ashamed. The people who hurt me, that’s their shame to carry, not mine. Abusers want us to carry shame and think it’s our fault. No.” Twitter, 7 September 2018. https://twitter.com/TereseMarieM/status/1038108198266437632.

“From squaw, to mother with a face, and pores, and a body, and my own good history—I want my large heart, but older and safer, and clean.” (102)

With Heart Berries, Mailhot resists being the “third generation of things we don’t talk about”, writing what it means to be a Native woman in a colonized society and refusing old tropes of the postmodern Other woman (113). By interrogating the unhealthy spaces of her existence—sexual assault, mental illness, intergenerational trauma and violence—Mailhot writes herself a path towards healing, and one that she hopes will teach others to forgive themselves as well. She writes, ever so succinctly, “Pain expanded my heart.” (122). With her carefully chaotic words, she challenges the silencing and maltreatment of Indigenous women’s stories and brings forth an Indigenous feminist narrative that is honest, updated and necessary.

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