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Biography & Autobiography Native Americans

Heart Berries

A Memoir

by (author) Terese Marie Mailhot

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Mar 2018
Native Americans, Personal Memoirs, Women
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2020
    List Price

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Where to buy it


*Canada Reads 2019 Longlist
*National Bestseller
*New York Times Bestseller
*Finalist for the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
*Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards
*Longlisted for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize
*Winner of the Blue Metropolis First Peoples Prize
*Winner of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature
*Winner of the 2019 Whiting Award for Nonfiction
*Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
*Shortlisted for the 2019 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction
*A New York Times Editors' Choice
*A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2018
*A CBC Best Book of 2018
*A Toronto Star Best Book of 2018
*A Walrus Best Book of 2018
*An NPR Best Book of 2018
*A Chatelaine Best Book of 2018
*A Bustle Best Book of 2018
*A GQ Best Book of 2018
*A Thrillist Best Book of 2018
*A Book Riot Best Book of 2018
*An Electric Lit Best Book of 2018
*An Entropy Best Book of 2018
*A Hill Times Best Book of 2018
*A BookPage Best Book of 2018
*A Library Journal Best Book of 2018
*A Goodreads Best Book of 2018
*A New York Public Library Best Book of 2018
*Named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by: ChatelaineEntertainment Weekly, ELLECosmopolitanEsquireHuffington PostB*tchNYLONBuzzFeedBustleThe Rumpus and Goodreads
*Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018 
Guileless and refreshingly honest, Terese Mailhot's debut memoir chronicles her struggle to balance the beauty of her Native heritage with the often desperate and chaotic reality of life on the reservation.

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation 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.
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.

About the author


  • Long-listed, RBC Taylor Prize
  • Short-listed, Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award - Nonfiction

Contributor Notes

TERESE MARIE MAILHOT is in the creative writing faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she graduated with an M.F.A. in fiction. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, Carve Magazine, The Offing, The Toast, Yellow Medicine Review and elsewhere. The recipient of several fellowships--SWAIA Discovery Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, Writing by Writers Fellowship and the Elk Writer's Workshop Fellowship--she was recently named the Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University. She resides in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Editorial Reviews

"There are so many sentences [in Heart Berries] I had to read again because they were so true and beautiful. It’s a memoir of pure poetry and courage and invention. Whenever I think about it, my heart clenches with love." --Cheryl Strayed 

"Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here, is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small. She writes of motherhood, loss, absence, want, suffering, love, mental illness, betrayal and survival. She does this without blinking but to say she is fearless would be to miss the point. These essays are too intimate, too absorbing, too beautifully written, but never ever too much. What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined, testament." —Roxane Gay 

"I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot’s deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results. I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words—but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say. . . . [T]he writing is so good it’s hard not to temporarily be distracted from the content or narrative by its brilliance. . . . Perhaps, because this author so generously allows us to be her witness, we are somehow able to see ourselves more clearly and become better witnesses to ourselves." ―Emma Watson, Official March/April selection for Our Shared Shelf

"Heart Berries is a sledgehammer . . . a mixture of vulnerability and rage, sexual yearning and artistic ambition, swagger and self-mockery. . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir." —The New York Times

"One of the essential Canadian works of this century." —Montreal Gazette

"A strong contender for the best Canadian book—best book, period—you will read this year." —The Globe and Mail

"Part love letter, part poem, [Heart Berries] is a genre-defying marvel of a memoir. . . . A fearless and artistic work, Heart Berries is ultimately a tale of not just surviving, but thriving even in the dark." —Toronto Star

"Heart Berries is an original and powerful work that explores the painful and complex relationship between trauma and identity in the life of an Indigenous woman. Driven by a raw and compelling intensity, Terese Marie Mailhot has written a memoir that is actively engaged with questions surrounding memory, voice and representation, challenging the reader and herself along the way." —RBC Taylor Prize longlist jury

"Unearthing medicine and receiving power requires you to give your life and, in her debut memoir, Mailhot fearlessly delivers. By turns tender, sad, angry and funny, Heart Berries is a thought-provoking, powerful exploration of what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous woman and mother." —Eden Robinson, author of the Scotiabank Giller Prizeshortlisted novel Son of a Trickster
"Terese Marie Mailhot tells a story of family dysfunction and abuse, and of a personal reckoning with mental illness. Tough subject matter, yes, but she approaches it with a disarming and often devastating turn of phrase and the evocation of the fragmentary nature of memory. This is a powerful story about inter-generational trauma and personal shame, but also about love, forgiveness and the power of words to offer hope." —The Globe and Mail

"Sometimes a writer's voice is so distinctive, so angry and messy yet wise, that her story takes on the kind of urgency that makes you turn pages faster and faster. Terese Marie Mailhot has one of those voices, and her memoir about being raised on a Canadian reservation and coming to understand what it means to be an indigenous person in modern times is breathtaking." —Esquire

"Although this slim and devastatingly calibrated memoir which features brief, impressionistic and carefully modulated essays tops out at 160 pages, Heart Berries truly does provoke the reader to reconsider what it means to be epic. . . . Sharp and scorching, her approach walks the knife's edge between accessibility and experimentation." —Chicago Tribune

"[Heart Berries] is highly original, cutting, comforting, damaging, healing, gentle and brutal all at once. It takes a certain kind of skill married to a particular brand of guts to pull this off. Thank the writing gods, Mailhot has both in spades." —CBC

"This is a voice so distinct in tone, texture and personality. . . . Its quiet rage is directed outwards towards the intangible yet definitive (white supremacy, male supremacy), the unjust shape of the world, while a deep tenderness and empathy are shown to those who share in the author's vulnerability. . . . [Mailhot] has succeeded by telling the ugly truth with rich and beautiful words, sumptuous imagery and an unforgettable speech. This is a startling book." —The Guardian (UK)
"This gut punch of a memoir . . . [is] essentially a love letter, full of humor and truth, to tough, challenging women everywhere." ―Marie Claire 

"A luminous, poetic memoir." —Entertainment Weekly

"Powerful and raw, Heart Berries looks unflinchingly at trauma, love, pain, self-acceptance and what it means to be a Native woman today." —Buzzfeed

"The narrative is by turns lucid and hazy, leaving the reader basking in sharp images, moments of tenderness and anger, and a bone-deep sense of pain." —Chatelaine
"This powerful memoir reveals a life of struggle and illness, deprivation and pain, but is so full of strength in the face of adversity, that it is impossible not to read it and feel real hope and the possibility of triumph and renewal, no matter how dark things seem. . . . The result is this singularly moving, poetic book, one full of rage and desire, fear and brilliance. Prepare for it to sink its teeth into your very heart." —NYLON

"A memoir in essays, Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries tells the story of the author's coming-of-age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest—one filled with dysfunction and a dual diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar disorder. What did Mailhot do with all that? She wrote her way out of her trauma, finding forgiveness, understanding, peace and triumph along the way." —Bustle      
"Heart Berries makes for a slim volume, but it feels as though it weighs a thousand pounds. It turns its gaze on a constellation of fraught subjects. . . . What brings it all together is the oracular power of Mailhot's voice, which speaks into the silence: amplifying aspects of experience that have been muted, animating despairs and passions we tend to hide from view." —The Atlantic
"Mailhot fearlessly addresses intimately personal issues with a scorching honesty derived from psychological pain and true epiphany. . . . She shares these anecdotes through lyrical, brooding, vastly introspective language. Her prose expresses the urgency of her life in clipped, poetic sentences that snap and surge with grief and intensive reflection. . . . Slim, elegiac and delivered with an economy of meticulous prose, the book calibrates the author's history as an abused child and an adult constantly at war with the demons of mental illness. An elegant, deeply expressive meditation infused with humanity and grace." —Kirkus Reviews

"Poetic is an oft-used descriptor of lovely writing, and this book seems to be something more striking than the word signifies: a memoir and a poem, a haunting and dazzlingly written narrative of Mailhot's growing up on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest." —Huffington Post  

"The work is transcendent in the most literal sense, surpassing every readerly expectation about genre and form to create a truly unique book . . . and all of it is unified and amplified by Mailhot's singular voice: bold and poetic and elegant. This is a short book that packs a punch." —Thrillist

"Utterly arresting. . . . Mailhot makes beautiful sentences out of ugly things, addressing the complexities of mental illness, the particular damage wrought by sexual abuse and the injustices of racism and white male supremacy, in a distinctive, uncompromising style. It is a very empowering read, hard-hitting and politically charged, while at the same time offering a tender celebration of motherhood, its expansive love, its defiance." —Diana Evans, Financial Times

"There is plenty of misery in Mailhot's memoir, but also something fresh: a sort of lived-in, jargon-free intersectionality. . . . The incidents she recounts are horrific on their face, but rendered with a sense of proportion and self-knowledge that rarely emerges from happier lives." —Vulture

"Although Heart Berries is physically thin, it swells with rage and love, wrapped in a confident voice." —Metro

"[Mailhot] has found the words—most unusual ones—to tell her story and because she uses words in such strange ways, the result is spooky and powerful. . . . [Heart Berries] is a roller coaster of a read, and perhaps one especially valuable for those who have struggled with mental illness and/ or obsessive love." —Star Tribune
"This book is ache and balm. It is electric honesty and rigorous craft. It concerns a woman who veers into difficult and haunted corners. She meets ghosts and hospitals. She ends up in a mutinous wing of memoir; disobeying all colonial postures, 'neat narratives,' formulas and governments. The resulting story is brave and bewitching. I am so grateful to Terese Marie Mailhot, a fiery new voice, whose words devoured my heart." —Kyo Maclear, bestselling author of Birds Art Life

"Inside Terese Mailhot's phenomenal memoir Heart Berries the truth wrestles a knot between hustle and heart. How does a woman raised on a reservation in Canada forge a lifestory in the face of a culture hell bent on keeping her quiet and calm? By and through her body, is how, and this woman's body rages, desires, screams and whispers its way into the reader's body, as if to remind us that the rest of the story will not be silenced. Terese radically reinvents language in order to surface what has been murdered by American culture: the body of a woman, the voice of a warrior, the stories of ancestral spirit jutting up and through the present tense. I am mesmerized by her lyricism because it is shot through with funny angry beautiful brutal truths. This is a writer for our times who simultaneously blows up time. Thank oceans." ―Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan, The Small Backs of Children, Dora: A Headcase, and The Chronology of Water 

"Heart Berries is phenomenal. I finished the book and went right back to the beginning to read through once again; my understanding deepened, as did the mystery. Mailhot's voice is so clear, so disruptive, so assured, and always so mesmerizingly poetic—it somehow startles and lulls all at once. I was KNOCKED DOWN." —Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

"In this debut memoir, Terese Marie Mailhot sends across generations a love letter to women considered difficult. She sends a manifesto toward remembering―culture and heartbreak and laughter. She writes to the men who love these women. She writes prose tight as a perfect sheet, tucked . . . To read this book is to engage with one of our very best minds at work." ―Toni Jensen, author of From the Hilltop

"Heart Berries makes me think of a quote I have always loved: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' (Keats). With a keen eye for intense truth and thoroughly-crafted beauty, Mailhot's debut sings like poetry, and stays with you long after you've finished the last page." ―Katherena Vermette, Governor General's Award-winning author of North End Love Song
"There is some word we have not invented yet that means hon­esty to the hundredth power, that means courage, exponen­tially extended, that means I will flay myself for my art, for my survival, for my family, to keep breathing, to keep writing, to keep being alive. Inside that opening is beauty beyond all measure, the truth that art was invented to carry, and power enough to light the word. This book is that kind of opening." —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
"Shot through with funny angry beautiful brutal truths. This is a writer for our times who simultaneously blows up time." —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan
"This stunning, poetic memoir from Terese Marie Mailhot burns like hot coal. . . . Situating her physical and psychic pain in context with a multigenerational focus, Mailhot crafts an intensely moving story about mothers and what they pass down to their children." —BookPage
"I am currently obsessed with Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries. It is gorgeous and generous in its honesty." —Joshua Whitehead, author of Jonny Appleseed

"There are so many sentences I had to read again because they were so true and beautiful. It's a memoir of pure poetry and courage and invention. Whenever I think about it, my heart clenches with love." —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

User Reviews


I had the privilege of reading an advanced readers copy of this book. It's a beautiful and powerful memoir in essays. So much of it is heart wrenching, and yet it exudes the authors strength and perseverance.

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