Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island reserve in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese 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. (From Doubleday Canada)
Heart Berries was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
Born and raised on Seabird Island, B.C., Terese Marie Mailhot is in the creative writing faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she graduated with an MFA in fiction.
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"I think it's important for broken families to know that things can get better. You don't need to excuse your behaviour and say that it was causal. I don't benefit from saying that; I benefit from accountability. I have to actively push against the things I learned when I was a child. I learned that children can't talk back, test boundaries or question authority. My mom taught me to question authority, but never her — that creates an atmosphere of fear and I don't want that with my kids. In my childhood, I only had my mother to blame because my father was absent. It was really easy to take out my heart on my mother.
I think it's important for broken families to know that things can get better.- Terese Marie Mailhot
"Writing Heart Berries, I learned that her language was poetry and mine was explicit. In order to reach into her, I had to choose the most artistic way to memorialize her. I wanted to show her that, ultimately, I'm thankful for her life and the life she gave me."
From the book
My story was maltreated. The words were too wrong and ugly to speak. I tried to tell someone my story, but he thought it was a hustle. He marked it as solicitation. The man took me shopping with his pity. I was silenced by charity — like so many Indians. I kept my hand out. My story became the hustle. Women asked me what my endgame was. I hadn't thought about it. I considered marrying one of the men and sitting with my winnings, but I was too smart to sit. I took their money and went to school. I was hungry and took more. When I gained the faculty to speak my story, I realized I had given men too much. The thing about women from the river is that our currents are endless. We sometimes outrun ourselves. I stopped answering men's questions or their calls. Women asked me for my story. My grandmother told me about Jesus. We knelt to pray. She told me to close my eyes.
From Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot ©2018. Published by Doubleday Canada.