Books

Terese Marie Mailhot receives $50K U.S. Whiting Award for emerging writers

The author of Heart Berries is one of 10 writers to receive the annual prize, which recognizes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.
Terese Marie Mailhot is a writer from Seabird Island, B.C. (Isiah Mailhot, Penguin Random House Canada)

Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries, is one of 10 emerging writers who will receive $50,000 U.S. ($66,635 Cdn) as part of this year's Whiting Awards.

Based in New York, the Whiting Awards are given annually to a group of writers whose early work has been celebrated and indicates "promise of great work to come." Recipients are nominated and selected anonymously by members of the literary industry, including writers, editors and scholars.

The B.C.-raised writer published her first book Heart Berries in 2018. The memoir is a slim, poetic book written as a series of letters to the author's husband and deceased mother. It describes how painful childhood memories on Seabird Island reserve have haunted her as an adult.

The bestselling memoir went on to be nominated for Canada's top literary nonfiction prizes, including the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction and Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

"Thank you, Mother. Brothers. Native women. The Whiting. I'm so excited to live and write," Mailhot wrote on Twitter.

Mailhot's work has also appeared in The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Times and Carve Magazine. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and is the Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University. She currently lives in Indiana.

"Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries is one of the most important memoirs of the last five years. There is a purity to this nimble, jarring work," said the selection committee.

"Mailhot writes with a fierce and unyielding commitment to creating an unlikeable — which is to say, fully human — female narrator, speaking to a larger project in contemporary memoir. The plot we follow is actually the narrator's own mind; her intelligence, clarity, honesty, and complexity make this story riveting."

The other 2019 recipients are poets Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Tyree Daye and Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, fiction writers Hernan Diaz, Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Merritt Tierce, nonfiction writer Nadia Owusu and playwrights Lauren Yee and Michael R. Jackson.

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