Essays & Interviews


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"White Witchery," Guernica

I just want a version of the occult that isn’t built on plunder, but I suspect that if we could excise the stolen pieces, there would be nothing left. (Read more at Guernica)


"The Sun Disappears," Canadian Art

Men never send dick pics, only sunsets. (Read more at Canadian Art)


"Incompressible Flow," Triangle House Review

When my boyfriend asked me whether I was afraid of him, I told him I was not. When he told me I should be, I told him I was not. (Read more at Triangle House Review)


"Wednesday Addams Is Just Another Settler," Electric Literature

I, like Wednesday, do not trust the Pilgrims. Smug in my embrace of the macabre and hoping to grow up to be Morticia, I paint my lips red as a guillotine’s blade. I’m the kind of girl who flirts by asking, as Wednesday says to her love interest while they stare across a skeleton’s ribcage, “Do you believe in the existence of evil?” (Read more at Electric Literature)


"Unpacking the Razorblade Suitcase: 21 Years of Complicated Love for Bush," The Stranger

This spring, it occurred to me that Razorblade Suitcase was also likely my first and most profound literary influence. Lingering young love is one thing. Realizing the cataloging of grotesquerie that I thought sprang organically from some place deep in my emotional anatomy but instead was transferred from the mind of Gavin Rossdale—that's different. (Read more at The Stranger)


"Shark Girl," City Arts

In my favorite old story, a girl devours everyone who loves her before she turns into a shark. I try to tell this story to everyone I know, but I retain so little of it. I only recall that she kills her husband’s women, she kills his children, she eats her baby, she kills her husband. She goes to the ocean and there, she becomes a shark, a dangerous being. (Read more at City Arts)


"White City," The Offing

The first time my future self visited me—flesh, no metaphor—I was close to the part of Lake Washington where the [undisclosed] animal spirit lived in and above the water before colonizers drove it away. (Read more at The Offing)


"Apocalypse Logic," The Offing

I watched the man touch his hand to the map and knew what my body was trying to tell me: the sexual violence against my body has been carried out in response the settler state’s instructions to its white men, and now the instructions would be delivered clearly, from behind no screen. Maybe my triggers are many because to live in the United States of America is to wake up every day inside an abuser. (Read more at The Offing)


"They Just Dig: On Writing, Coal Mining, and Fear," Literary Hub

I come from coal miners: men who lost fingers and arms, the man whose bones were crushed under a rolling coal cart, the one who lived through a leg-cracking explosion, the many whose lungs turned black from decades of dusty inhalations or whose livers buckled under the weight of the after-work rotgut that momentarily knocked out the dread. I have always known that coal mining is harder than writing. (Read more at Literary Hub)


"Consumption," Okey-Panky

What can colleges do about binge drinking? Colleges can hold their students’ hair back. A super nice college can be a pal and keep breath mints on hand. Colleges can take their turns at DD, or better yet, they can let the bars creep up to the edge of campus, bordering hedge and brick with their welcoming perfume of cola, bleach, and on Mondays, putrefaction.
(Read more at Okey-Panky)


"This Indian Does Not Owe You," BuzzFeed

I do not owe you a complete breakdown of my ancestry. I do not keep a blood quantum chart sketched out on my palm like crib notes for an exam. I do not have to tell you where my mother was born or what substance forms my father.
(Read more at BuzzFeed)


"I Am Not Pocahontas," The Weeklings

Disney’s Pocahontas was released in 1995, when I was ten. I had outgrown my Barbies then, but I still added a Pocahontas doll to my retired collection. I knew that she was a fullblood. She communicated with animals and never wore a jacket. She painted with all the colors of the wind. If someone had asked me to explain the difference between my plastic doll and me, I might have said that she was the real Indian and I was the fake one.
(Read more at The Weeklings, cross-posted at Salon)


"Stab Wounds: Killing My Gallbladder, Wounding My Brain," Paleo for Women

How long would symptoms persist? Well—how long did I expect to be gallbladderless?
(Read more at Paleo for Women)


"Bred to Binge," As/Us: A Space for Women of the World

"I worry that when I rack up enough diagnoses, the insurance company will take me out back and shoot me."
(Read more at As/Us: A Space for Women of the World)


"The wrongheaded obsession with 'vanishing' indigenous peoples," Salon

"Nelson’s website presents a portrayal of an explorer who 'found the last tribesmen and observed them' and an artist who serves as 'the last visual witness of flawless human beauty.' While these words have a romantic resonance, Nelson’s mission is built on a horrifying assumption: that these indigenous peoples are on the brink of destruction. He couldn’t be more wrong."
(Read more at Salon)


"How Much Indian Was I? My Fellow Students Asked," The Chronicle of Higher Education

The first thing I learned in college was that white boys don't care if you're legitimately Indian if they think you robbed them of $100,000 in scholarship money that they'd earned holding a tuba for countless hours on a high-school football field.
(Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education)



Interviews & Profiles

Interviews about Shapes of Native Nonfiction can be found here.

"Close to the Bone: A Conversation with Elissa Washuta about breaking containers, Native voices in nonfiction, and writing about trauma and mental illness." Interlochen Review. 2019.

"I Accepted My True Self Long Before I Accepted The Case It Comes In" by Lauren Grabowski. Triangle House Review. 2018.

"This Body Is an Inheritance: A Conversation with Elissa Washuta" by Meredith Doench. Adroit Journal. September 26, 2018.

"A Lumpy, Misshapen Book: Talking with Elissa Washuta" by Katharine Coldiron. The Rumpus, September 19, 2018.

"Infinite Regression: A Conversation with Alice Bolin." Tin House, June 2018.

"Native Voices Won't Be Silenced" by Nichole L. Reber. Electric Literature. November 1, 2016.

Ordinary Madness Episode #78, September 22, 2016.

"Sister Cities/First Nations - WORD Christchurch." Christchurch City Libraries Blog. August 31, 2016.

"Getting Past the Blank Page" by Aleenah Ansari. The Daily, July 5, 2016.

"A writer's retreat at 'the center of the universe'" by Lynn Schnaiberg. Crosscut, July 1, 2016.

"Q&A: Essayist Elissa Washuta on being the Fremont Bridge’s first writer-in-residence, another recent award and her upcoming book" by Deborah Bach. UW Today, June 21, 2016.

"3 Native Artists Shaking Up Seattle" by Richard Walker. Indian Country Today, June 17, 2016.

"Authors: Stories Behind the Books" (photo series with Q&A) by Elizabeth Ogle. March 9, 2016.

"A Song of My Selves" by Paul Constant. Inlander, April 7, 2016.

"Fiction Points: Elissa Washuta." Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, March 29, 2016.

"Pressing on the Pain to Get to the Truth: Elissa Washuta in Conversation with Chelsea Hodson." Literary Hub, November 6, 2015.

"Interview with Elissa Washuta." Elsewhere Lit, Issue 4.

"A Single Slice of Experience: An Interview with Elissa Washuta" by Ciara Hespe. mojo, October 18, 2015.

The Write Question interview with Cherie Newman of Montana Public Radio

"Behind the Book: An Interview with Elissa Washuta, Author of My Body Is a Book of Rules" by Tai Dietrich. Crossroads Literary Journal, December 10, 2014.

"‘Book of Rules’: Memoir Tackles Mental Illness, Sexual Trauma and Native Identity" by Adrian Jawort. Indian Country Today, December 1, 2014.

"Breaking Boundaries" by Carla Sameth and Christina Bacock. Pasadena Weekly, October 23, 2014.

"You Don't Have to Be Pinned Under a Boulder: A Conversation with Elissa Washuta" by Megan Burbank. The Portland Mercury, October 15, 2014.

Late Night Debut, September 2014, with Melissa Febos and Domenica Ruta: listen to the podcast here.

"The Highs and Lows of Elissa Washuta" by Gwendolyn Elliott. Seattle Weekly, September 16, 2014.

Largehearted Boy: Book Notes - Elissa Washuta "My Body Is a Book of Rules"

Ordinary Madness Episode #62: listen to the podcast here.

"Elissa Washuta Recommends..." at Poets & Writers, August 2014.

"Rewriting the Rules with Elissa Washuta," an interview by Samantha Updegrave. Bitch Media, August 2014.

"Blood Quantum Leap" by Rich Smith. City Arts, August 2014.

Ordinary Madness Episode #53, with Catherine Slaton and Claire Jackson: listen to the podcast here.

HTMLGIANT Seattle Author Spotlight #9: “Narrative Gold” — (In the Memoir Swamp) — Talking to Seattle’s Elissa Washuta

From the Blog