Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot [in Library Journal]
“Indian girls can be forgotten so well they can forget themselves.” After reading Terese Marie Mailhot’s 160 pages or listening to not-quite-four hours narrated by Rainy Fields, forgetting is not an option. Presented as an essay collection, Mailhot’s work lays bare her experiences as a Native American woman fighting for her life: “I won’t be an Indian relic for any readership.”
Surviving a violent father and neglectful mother, Mailhot escaped foster care by marrying as a teenager. She lost custody of her first son while pregnant with her second. Her marriage ended, she had affairs, and she married her unreliable lover with whom she had another son. Suffering from an eating disorder and mental illness, Mailhot was hospitalized. There, a nurse gave her a ballpoint pen and a composition book into which she “produced so much work.” Her writing becomes her savior.
Fields, herself a registered member of the Muskogee Creek Nation of Cherokee descent, is Mailhot’s complementary conduit, intuiting the subtle rhythms of her wrenching debut. The afterword Q&A with poet Joan Naviyuk Kane is exceptionally revealing.