Terese Mailhot, author of the 2018 New York Times bestseller Heart Berries, had a reading of her book in the Stewart Center on Thursday night, held by the "Native Voices" series.
Heart Berries is a memoir that dives into the trauma Mailhot faced in her childhood. She reflects on abuse and molestation by her father, an affectionate yet neglectful relationship with her mother, mental disorder and the exploitation of indigenous Native American people.
Sections of the book were originally fiction, but Mailhot decided to remove those chapters.
“I think that there was a contrive there that I wasn’t happy with," she explained. "It was mostly that the protagonist was more confident than I am and I felt that in order to make the speaker more apathetic or to even render it more human, I had to take out the persona and just be myself.”
Mailhot read aloud the last chapters of her memoir to a group of about 20 people in the reading room of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education Library. These chapters focused on motherhood and addressed her own mother, who passed away years ago.
Mailhot’s husband and two sons sat in the crowd, listening to her reading. Her older son, Isaiah, jokingly volunteered to ask a question during the Q&A segment.
“No! If it’s about your own life, I’ll answer it in the car,” his mother responded.
During the reading, Mailhot also explored some challenges she faced when publishing the book.
“I guess my fear was that I would be judged," she said. "And I kind of invited it in by talking about the most shameful parts of my mind.”
"Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness" is a traveling exhibition that has partnered up with Purdue University Libraries through the Native American Educational and Cultural Center.
The host of the event, Ann O’Donnell, said, “They’ve spent years interviewing these people to talk about how their culture and the concepts of health and illnesses are changing and how they're trying to go back to tradition.”
The exhibit featured digital stations to watch videos to learn about native culture and the history of indigenous living. An upcoming event from this series includes anthropology and materials engineering professor Harold Kory Cooper discussing “Subsistence and Health in Alaska Native Communities” at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the Hicks Undergraduate Library.