White magic Essays

Elissa Washuta

Book - 2021

"Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, "starter witch kits" of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and mea...ning. In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life-Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham-to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule"--

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Subjects
Published
Portland, Oregon : Tin House [2021]
Language
English
Physical Description
424 pages
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9781951142391
195114239X
Main Author
Elissa Washuta (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The colonization of Native Americans is often portrayed—by white narrators of history—as a set of actions located in the far distant past. In this powerful collection of interlinked essays, Cowlitz writer Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules, 2014) explores the inescapable presence of colonization and other traumas as they circle through and around her romantic relationships, her Native identity, and even the pop culture she consumes. "Story is a system of cause and consequence," Washuta writes, "that builds sense from the incomprehensible." Though she is eminently aware of the structure and requirements of stories—stories told by astrologers, by ancestors, by video game designers, by playwrights—Washuta's essays refuse the mandate of a tidy resolution. Instead she circles around each subject, inspecting it as symbol, myth, metaphor, and reality, all while allowing her readers space to draw their own conclusions, or to reject the need for any conclusion at all. Like a stage magician, she asks readers to look again. White Magic is an insightful, surprising, and eloquent record of stories of magic and the magic in stories. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

The colonization of Native Americans is often portrayed—by white narrators of history—as a set of actions located in the far distant past. In this powerful collection of interlinked essays, Cowlitz writer Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules, 2014) explores the inescapable presence of colonization and other traumas as they circle through and around her romantic relationships, her Native identity, and even the pop culture she consumes. "Story is a system of cause and consequence," Washuta writes, "that builds sense from the incomprehensible." Though she is eminently aware of the structure and requirements of stories—stories told by astrologers, by ancestors, by video game designers, by playwrights—Washuta's essays refuse the mandate of a tidy resolution. Instead she circles around each subject, inspecting it as symbol, myth, metaphor, and reality, all while allowing her readers space to draw their own conclusions, or to reject the need for any conclusion at all. Like a stage magician, she asks readers to look again. White Magic is an insightful, surprising, and eloquent record of stories of magic and the magic in stories. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules) delivers a searing set of essays, each a fractal examination of the connections between her personal struggle with loneliness, abuse, and addiction, and the devastation of Indigenous communities swindled by colonial settlers, white developers, and foisted treaties rarely honored. Lured by the possibilities of fulfilling her desire to be loved and getting help for the hard work of recovery, Washuta is both drawn to and conflicted about modern witchery. But this is not a book about witchcraft or the occult. Topics and tone sweep from private introspection viewed through strange and often humorous lenses of Twin Peaks, claymation Mark Twain and his Devil, and the relationship woes of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, to highly researched, unvarnished examples from the painful histories of injustice and loss for many Pacific Northwest Indigenous communities. VERDICT Washuta's story and struggles become a metaphor for the toll of colonialism on generations of Indigenous people like herself. Readers of recovery narratives, women's issues, and keenly observed social commentary will be rewarded here.—Janet Tapper, formerly with Univ. of Western States Lib., Portland, OR Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules) delivers a searing set of essays, each a fractal examination of the connections between her personal struggle with loneliness, abuse, and addiction, and the devastation of Indigenous communities swindled by colonial settlers, white developers, and foisted treaties rarely honored. Lured by the possibilities of fulfilling her desire to be loved and getting help for the hard work of recovery, Washuta is both drawn to and conflicted about modern witchery. But this is not a book about witchcraft or the occult. Topics and tone sweep from private introspection viewed through strange and often humorous lenses of Twin Peaks, claymation Mark Twain and his Devil, and the relationship woes of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, to highly researched, unvarnished examples from the painful histories of injustice and loss for many Pacific Northwest Indigenous communities. VERDICT Washuta's story and struggles become a metaphor for the toll of colonialism on generations of Indigenous people like herself. Readers of recovery narratives, women's issues, and keenly observed social commentary will be rewarded here.—Janet Tapper, formerly with Univ. of Western States Lib., Portland, OR Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules), a creative writing professor at Ohio State, offers in this collection of tender reckonings "a book about how my heart was broken" and her attempts to heal it. Washuta recounts her struggles with sobriety, relationships, and the "tyrannical rule" of PTSD in her life. In search of healing, Washuta, a Native woman and occult enthusiast, examined the differences between "white magic" and misaligned, "malicious" black magic, and sought out "a version of the occult that isn't built on plunder." In "Little Lies," Washuta reflects on a D.A.R.E. drunk-driving ad soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins, and "The Spirit Cabinet" is an episodic collection of "synchronicities" often about her ex-boyfriend, featuring quotes from magician David Blaine. The most eloquent section highlights her grief moving through a world built on violence toward Native peoples: "I have lost my land, my language," she writes. Her prose is crisp and precise, and the references hit spot-on (such as her fascination with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who travels through the underworld, and with Twin Peaks, "a show about the unexplained, the mystical, and the cycles of violence and neglect to which women find themselves tethered"). Fans of the personal essay are in for a treat. Agent: Monika Woods, Triangle House.(Apr.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, "starter witch kits" of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning. In this collectionof intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life-Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham-to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, “starter witch kits” of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning. In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life—Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule. Bracingly honest and powerfully affecting, White Magic establishes Elissa Washuta as one of our best living essayists.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, “starter witch kits” of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning.Twin PeaksOregon Trail II

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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