MY BODY IS A BOOK OF RULES by Elissa Washuta


A Memoir
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A candid, autobiographical scrapbook from a young woman navigating manic depression.

In her forthright debut, Washuta intimately chronicles her ongoing struggle with the triple threat of a 2005 sexual assault, bipolar disorder, and the powerful antipsychotic medication prescribed to balance her mind and body (“chemical torture is the trade-off”). In each creatively imagined chapter, the author delivers explicit insight into her life: a bibliography of influential books; reflections on her college years at the University of Maryland, where she conducted sexual habit studies and imbibed vodka-laced “liquid dinners”; the conundrum of obtaining a sexual education while in Catholic school; her hilariously footnoted online dating profile; and a harrowing medicine-cabinet glossary of her prescription “bipolar buffet.” Washuta then graphically describes her sexual escapades in Seattle, where she was able to “absorb every one-night stand into my body and keep it there.” Other sections find the author personally identifying with TV’s Law & Order, Kurt Cobain and Britney Spears. In alternating chapters, she discusses the internal and external impacts of her Indian heritage as a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe (“It took some time to get the hang of being simultaneously white and Indian”) and how being raped altered her sense of identity and exacerbated her bouts of bipolar disorder ("Before I knew I was bipolar, and could settle into that, I had the rape. It was bloody and violent and it was an injustice of the kind my ancestors knew"). In a reliably honest, original and frank fashion, Washuta’s ruminations lift the veil of her chronic (and highly medicated) bouts of mental illness to reveal the confused, frenetic and often traumatic reality of living with overwhelming bouts of depression and mania.

A fever dream of darkly personal memories and musings from the shadowy corners of sexual violence and mental illness.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-59709-969-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2014


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