“I write to know what I think,” wrote Joan Didion. Sometimes we also write to know what we feel, who we are, and what the hell happened. Wendy Ortiz, Melissa Chadburn, and Melissa Febos are three such excavator artists. From investigative journalism to dream narratives to lyric essays, these queer writers traverse genre, subject, and the many facets of selfhood in search of insight.
The Other Side of Sadness - an evening of Poetry and Conversations with Joshua Jennifer Espinoza and Donika Kelly
An argument can be made that one goal of poetry is to shed light on the emotional interior of a given topic. That being said, it is a gift to have poets Josuha Jennifer Espinoza and Donika Kelly at the helm of our sensibilities, guiding us even if the terrain is loneliness and fear of erasure, or self-love and joy. This will be an evening celebrating our best and most complete selves, as Espinoza and Kelly recast the light on our own bodies, landscapes, and myths. At The Last bookstore
Are You Your Mind: A Conversation with Terese Mailhot and Elissa Washuta, moderated by Merritt Tierce.
Moderated by Merritt Tierce
Otherwise, a reading series dedicated to supporting the work of outsider artists, is proud to bring together two authors whose work breaks rank and defies expectations of form and sentiment. This discussion will traverse embodied selves, sexuality and art, mental states and art, trauma and art, and how we enact and live within and reject gendered and racialized identity.
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie 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.
As Elissa Washuta makes the transition from college kid to independent adult, she finds herself overwhelmed by the calamities piling up in her brain. When her mood-stabilizing medications aren’t threatening her life, they re shoving her from depression to mania and back in the space of an hour. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt; mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. Sifting through the scraps of her past in seventeen formally inventive chapters, Washuta aligns the strictures of her Catholic school education with Cosmopolitan’s mandates for womanhood, views memories through the distorting lens of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and contrasts her bipolar highs and lows with those of Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain. Built on the bones of fundamental identity questions as contorted by a distressed brain, My Body Is a Book of Rules pulls no punches in its self-deprecating and ferocious look at human fallibility.
In conjunction with each live reading event, Otherwise donates a $500 gift card to a local elementary school in need of books, redeemable at the hosting bookstore. This contribution supports both independent bookstores in our community, and young readers/future writers.
Two groundbreaking debut story collections published last year investigate relationships, desire, gender, and transformation, from powerfully queer and brilliantly real perspectives. Merritt Tierce will moderate a conversation between Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, and Jess Arndt, author of Large Animals: Stories, that will explore the authors' interests and expertise in writing "dark" stories (what exactly does that mean?), breaking and inventing fictional forms, how the body and the self are connected, and how literature can shape and explain and be that connection.